Coldplay, hockey, cricket - not always in same order for Jemimah

The 17-year-old batswoman, who made her international debut in South Africa last month, shares her experience.

Jemimah Rodrigues makes an instant impact in the T20I series in South Africa.   -  Special Arrangement

“It is good that you are nervous, that means you care about your performance which is normal,” these were the words from the legendary Sachin Tendulkar to teenager Jemimah Rodrigues before her India debut on a foreign soil, in February. “I normally hear people say, ‘don’t be nervous’ and ‘why are you nervous?’ But he made me so comfortable,” the 17-year-old tells Sportstar after a successful tour of South Africa.

The India women’s cricket team hoodwinked the Proteas eves in the ODIs (2-1) and T20Is (3-1); with Jemimah making her debut in the shorter format and displaying flashes of a bright future. The batswoman featured in three matches and barring one failure (6), she impressed with scores of 37 and 44 in the first and the fifth T20I respectively.

Read: Anuja Patil named India A captain for warm-ups against Australia

Tendulkar also simplified her bouncy wicket anxiety. “He said there are two ways to look at it. ‘People will say it is going to be difficult and you can take it that way, but bouncy wickets would also mean that the ball will come nicely to your bat,’" reveals Jemimah, who started playing at the age of four.

Guarded by legends

It’s a strange coincidence that Jemimah’s guidance, before and through the series, came from cricketers who hold the record of being the youngest international debutants for India — Tendulkar and Mithali Raj, both at 16 years and 205 days. 

Seven-year-old Jemimah Rodrigues with hockey legend Dhanraj Pillay.   -  Special Arrangement

 

Jemimah and Mithali struck a chord from the first game itself. The duo shared a 69-run partnership for the third wicket that helped India chase down 165 with seven balls to spare. They bettered their record in the fifth with a 98-run stand for the second wicket, steering India to a competitive total (166/4); eventually leading to the series win. She maintained her youthful exuberance but skilfully nodded to the senior pro’s instructions while batting. “She is so chill, she is so cool when she bats,” Jemimah on how it was batting with Mithali.

When you walk into a national side’s change room, you are bound to have jitters. “They never made me feel like a youngster. They kept talking to me normally. There was no senior-junior divide,” says Jemimah, who believes the African sojourn taught her the mental game. “International cricket is all about the mental game is what I understood in the series.”

Of Bandra, hockey and music

A hockey stick, a cricket bat, a Coldplay (her favourite band) song and a guitar — Jemimah ticks all the boxes of being a Bandra girl. The queen of the suburbs in Mumbai is renowned for cultivating professionals from all fields, and she is all rolled into one. Her sports career took off with hockey and thanks to her brothers, Enoch and Eli, she too developed an ear for music. There is also a guitar with her on cricket tours. “We had a small session in South Africa too. I sang and played to my team-mates,” she says.

At nine, Jemimah was selected for the U-17 Maharashtra hockey team.   -  Special Arrangement

 

Before cricket came calling, Jemimah was selected for the U-17 Maharashtra hockey team at the age of nine. “Cricket and hockey were on at the same time. Mumbai didn’t have a hockey team then. Later, I got selected for Mumbai too. It is strange that I was first selected for hockey, and then, cricket,” says Jemimah, who now trains at the MIG Cricket Club.

Sports in genes

Her father, Ivan, coached her from childhood. Her brothers were also cricketers and hockey players before shifting focus to academics and music. “There was a time when three of them went to the nets together. The brothers used to protect her and also monitor her batting. They would report to me if she played technically wrong,” he says.

Jemimah receives the trophy from M.S. Dhoni after winning the under-19 BCCI Women All-India knockout league.   -  Special Arrangement

 

Even though her parents run a science and maths tutorial, there is no added pressure to stand out academically. “Her first priority is prayer, then play and third, studies. But we back her to maintain a certain position in academics. Jemimah is in the 12th standard and was supposed to appear for her boards, but she was in South Africa,” adds Ivan, who believes his daughter can make it in the next opportunity.

As of now, the right-hander is gearing up to carry the momentum into the three-match ODI series against Australia starting March 12. “The confidence gained from South Africa is going to help in the games against Australia; playing and scoring in an overseas tour is a boost for any cricketer,” Jemimah sums up, adding, “I still like to play hockey, whenever possible.”