Malawi National Netball Team, the Queens, face a stern test of hanging on to sixth place in world rankings when they face Uganda’s She Cranes this morning at the World Netball Championship in Windhoek, Namibia.
The Queens are ranked second in Africa, but they risk being overtaken by Uganda, who are seventh globally and third on the continent.
She Cranes’ impressive showing at the recent Pent Series, where they emerged champions after winning all their games, including a 16-basket margin win over Malawi, gives them a chance to displace Malawi as they are only separated by two points on overall ratings.
Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) general secretary (GS) Isaac Chimwala and Queens coach Peace Chawinga-Kaluwa yesterday said today’s showdown is, therefore, a must-win for Malawi.
Said Chimwala: “We need to take extra caution because the outcome of tomorrow’s [today] match will have a huge bearing on the next rankings.
“Already, Uganda have an advantage, having beaten us in the Pent Series.
“So, we really find ourselves in an awkward situation.”
The NAM GS said the loss to Uganda by the 16-basket margin at the Pent Series could haunt the Queens.
Said Chimwala: “We made some schoolboy errors in both fielding and approach, otherwise we were not supposed to lose that match and now we find ourselves in a desperate situation.
“I hope the coach will get it right this time around, otherwise we have a serious problem.”
On her part, Chawinga-Kaluwa said: “Tomorrow’s [today] match is very important, especially considering that they beat us in Pent Series. We need to win so that we get even.
“A win could also give us a chance of finishing second, depending on basket difference.”
Local netball analyst Wesley Namasala observed that the gap between Malawi and Uganda used to be wide in terms of points, but it has now narrowed.
“So, if they [Uganda] win, our ratings will be affected. It is, therefore, a must-win game for the Queens,” he said.
Namasala attributed the Queens’ decline over the years to a poor transition process, saying: “The painful reality is that the team needs an overhaul
“A number of players are in the twighlight of their careers and their energy levels are diminishing.
“If you look at the starting line-up, the average age is over 30. We are perhaps the oldest squad at the tournament.
“As a way forward, we need broader-based talent identification process that includes, but not limited to all youth tournaments at regional, continental and world levels.”
Rankings are vital as top six teams enjoy automatic qualification for international tournaments such as the Netball World Cup, Commonwealth Games and World Fast5 Series.
South Africa’s Spar Proteas are ranked fifth in the world and first on the continent. They have a rating of 122 points, while Malawi and Uganda’s rates 124 and 122 points respectively.
According to World Netball website netball.sport, a rating is a measure of the average performance of a team over a series of matches. Each team earns a certain number of points from each international match.
Reads the process in part: “Rating is the total number of points earned divided by the number of matches played. The team with the highest rating is ranked first in the world. The next highest rating is ranked second and so on.
“Weighting Matches played a long time ago are a poorer guide to current form than more recent results.
“The number of points earned by a team for any match depends on two factors. The result [won, tied or lost] and the opponent against whom the result was achieved. The higher an opponent’s rating the more points are earned for beating them.”