You remember her stunner at deep mid-wicket against South Africa, don’t you? Marizanne Kapp was thinking about six till it reached the rope at mid-wicket, then she popped out of nowhere, leapt on the spot and pulled off a stunner! She was inches in front of the rope as she took the catch and was praised for her balance. That effort could rank alongside any of the brilliant takes at the boundary rope that too by a 17 years old teenager, playing her first overseas tour. That is Jemimah Rodrigues for you. You can call her ‘JeMEMEah’ too.
The Rodrigues family had shifted from Bhandup to Bandra, in Mumbai, when Jemimah was barely seven. Besides cricket, Jemimah Rodrigues took a liking for hockey at a very young age. Jemimah and her father knew moving to Bandra was just the stepping stone towards becoming a professional athlete. Jemimah was three when she was gifted her first bat and she soon started accompanying her brothers to an all-boys academy.
She was just in the third standard when she hit the ground, with a hockey stick gifted by her church’s pastor Emmanuel. And on the very first day of her training session, she caught the eye of former India coach Joachim Carvalho who has a knack for spotting young talent. Impressed with the way the player held the stick and handled the ball without any prior training, Carvalho prophesied that this boy will play for India One Day. Jemimah Rodrigues has represented Mumbai in Under-19 hockey too, playing as a centre forward. Carvalho’s words turn out to be true but a different game.
Despite becoming a teen sensation in cricket, Jemimah misses her encounter with hockey. She had chosen cricket to fulfil her father’s dream to play for India one day. As Ivan didn’t get the desired support she wanted her daughter to chase that dream. And her talented Jemimah made her father proud at a tender age of 17. In order to get their prodigious daughter more opportunities and facilities and even took a loan to buy a bowling machine.
Ivan noticed the shortcomings in Jemimah’s batting – noticeably the tendency to get out to swing bowlers early on in age-group cricket – and promptly decided to invest. The youngster made sure she was faithful to her strict training regimen that meant hitting the gym even during off-seasons at 8 am every day, followed by two practice sessions. Jemimah was home this New Year for a short break but she still hit the nets with her mentor and dad to tweak certain areas.
Prior to the South Africa tour in 2018, the Indian team had a camp at Mumbai. Jemimah, a lanky right-handed batter dealt with the national side bowlers with disdain in her way to 111 in 103 balls. This knock earned the praise from the then Indian coach Tushar Arothe at an empty Wankhede stadium. This knock sealed her inclusion in the national side for the upcoming tour.
But it was not only that. In that season, she was in tremendous form. She became the 2nd Indian after Smriti Mandhana to hit a double hundred in 50 over match. Her unbeaten 202 from 163 balls against Saurashtra, was the icing on her 1,013 runs in that U-19 tournament. Rodrigues led Mumbai’s Under-19, Under-23 and senior sides.
That unbeaten 202 earned her an India A call that very month, followed by a chance to play the Challenger Trophy this month, and then, an India call. Coached by her father Evans, Jemimah came to the limelight after that.
In her debut match for India in T20I, Jemimah Rodrigues came out to bat when India were 47/2 in the fifth over. India had lost players like Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur in the back to back balls chasing a target of 165. But that girl, just more than 5 feet stood tall in the middle. Mithali Raj and she added 69 runs in just 52 balls.
Jemimah chipped in with 37 from 27 balls against the attack that comprised of Kapp, Ismail, Niekerk. Khaka faced her wrath when she picked up 14 runs of her three balls in the 6th over. Her ability to find the gaps caught the eyes of the spectators. Her inning was decorated with 4 fours and a six. In the last match of the series she too scored a match-winning 44.
Despite her strike rate, she doesn’t consider herself to be a power-hitter. She is someone who looks to find the gaps and that suits her. One who is very strong through her offside she prefers to keep taking singles and doubles between the boundaries. She likes to pick those gaps and pierce the field using her skill and brain. She got two first half-century in T20 cricket in the tri-series in Mumbai. India won only one match but Jemimah impressed with the bat and her agility.
As one who is emotional, Jemima’s confidence was hit rock bottom when she was dropped from the Asia Cup in 2018. Crippling self-doubt clouded Jemimah’s mind and the generally cheerful youngster’s shoulders drooped. But as always she got her father by her side and she came back strong in her next T-20 tournament.
She hit back to back half-centuries against Sri Lanka while scoring 59 against New Zealand in her first World Cup. She amassed 125 runs in 5 matches in West Indies. In the semi-final, India were in the match until her partnership with Skipper Harmanpreet Kaur. But as she got run out, India triggered a collapse in 2018 World Cup.
The New Zealand tour of 2019 was a memorable tour for her. Her highest run in both the formats came in that tour. In the first ODI at Napier chasing 193 runs for the victory, India rode of Smriti Mandhana’s 105 and Jemimah’s unbeaten 81. Duo added 190 runs for the first wicket to secure a 9 wicket victory. Though Jemimah got more chances in the shortest formats, she has shown glimpse to become successful in ODI as well.
It’s her sound technique and cricketing acumen that has helped her shatter records and amass quick runs. Though the World Cup in 2020 was not good for her in terms of her batting Jemimah has established herself as a useful member of the Indian side in both the formats.
Jemimah is no longer the youngest member of the team and feels the responsibilities that were thrown to her. She loves to bat within her comfort zone but ready to mould her self according to the need of the team. So depending on the situation, if her team wants her to attack, she will do it from ball one. But she is also happy to drop anchor. She knows that women cricket is changing and power-hitting has become a norm. As she is not strong enough she uses the element of timing and the bat swing for her power hitting.
In both the Women’s T20 Challenge, she has been an integral part of Super Novas, who won the title both the times. In 2019, Jemimah played for Yorkshire Diamond in Kia Super League. In that season while she scored more than 300 runs at a good strike rate her unbeaten 112 of just 58 balls made her the only centurion for the Yorkshire in KSL. Besides she surpassed Smriti Mandhana’s score to became the highest individual scorer as an Indian in an overseas league.
With 1302 runs across the formats for India, brilliant fielder, Jemimah Rodrigues turns 20 today.