Jemimah Rodrigues will be making her debut in Test cricket when India’s women’s team takes on England in June. And the youngster from Mumbai, who has already emerged as one of the most talked about batters in the world in the shorter version of the game, is excited.
In a chat with Sportstar , she underlines the importance of the England tour, her plans and why she has decided to take a break from social media…
You are set for your Test debut against England. How’s the feeling?
It’s very exciting. I remember when the women’s Ashes would go on, we would watch it on television and often wonder, “ apna time kab aayega ?” (when will our time come?). There is something special about those jerseys and we cannot wait to lay our hands on the whites and play Test cricket for India. Yes, there will be ODIs and T20Is, but Test cricket will always be something different. I am looking forward to it.
Would you call it a dream come true?
Honestly, no one expected the Test match to happen so soon. We all knew that it would happen for sure, but no one thought that it would happen so quickly. So, everyone is excited. Yes, more than anything else, it’s a dream come true. Test match is all about the mindset and how I approach it. I will leave my past behind and approach it in a new way.
Test cricket is all about temperament. So, ahead of the tour, how did you prepare yourself?
We have been playing a lot of white ball cricket over the last few years, especially since the time I made my debut. I have played more T20Is than ODIs because there were two T20 World Cups before the ODI World Cup. So yeah, there was a lot of T20 and white ball cricket in between.
I think it’s more about being patient over here. In Tests, it’s the same mindset for the bowler and the batter — whoever is patient and whoever knows how to seize opportunities when they get it, will be the winner.
I have been preparing mentally, and in the nets, I have been trying to leave the ball because the red ball swings more than the white ball. It is all about your mindset. It’s nothing different that I have to change in terms of my batting because I am a free-flowing batter and I love playing my shots. I don’t think I will not continue playing my shots, but at the same time, leaving the deliveries is important. It is also important to know which deliveries should be punished for a boundary or a six and which ones should be left.
You have an experience of playing in England. So, what are the areas that you are working on ahead of the tour?
When I was practising, I tried playing as close to the body as possible because that way, it’s easier to tackle the swing. In England, the ball swings, moves and they have good bounce. I have also played in the Kia Super League and I have a fair amount of experience playing there.
I enjoy batting in England because the ball comes even more nicely onto the bat, compared to Indian tracks, which are slower. I like that bounce and that’s why I am trying to play as close to the body as possible and I am also working on my basics.
There have not been any practice games ahead of the England tour because of the pandemic. So, does that put an extra pressure on the cricketers who will be featuring in their first Test match?
The times have been really challenging, not just in terms of cricket, but also in terms of practising because there has been a lockdown. No grounds are available, everything is shut. So, as a crickter, once you get the momentum, you want to continue and stay in that, especially when you play matches. Earlier, we would regularly play matches — be it domestic or international — and would hardly be at home. But now, it’s not possible because of circumstances. So, I have realised that I cannot control things which are not in my hands. I can only focus on my preparation. At least I am getting facilities to train, but there are so many people in Mumbai who do not have the opportunity. So that way, I am blessed.
The good thing is that we are reaching the UK early and will hopefully get some practice. We don’t have the schedule yet, but I am hopeful that we will have some match simulation sessions before the Test, so that will help us.
There are experienced people like Mithali Raj, Jhulan di (Jhulan Goswami), Harry di (Harmanpreet Kaur), Smriti (Mandhana), Shikha di (Shikha Pandey), Poonam (Yadav) — who were part of the Test squad before. So, even though some of us are new to the format, we have quite a few seasoned campaigners and I am sure they will pass on their knowledge and guide us on how to go ahead. I am sure our team will prepare well and give its best.
The team had a disappointing campaign against South Africa. How did the players react to the defeat?
Obviously, nobody likes losing. As a team, we wanted to win, but we knew that we did not play good cricket. We don’t want to give excuses that we did not play enough matches and things like that. Every time you wear the India jersey, you have to give your best and these situations teach you more than victories. Don’t get me wrong, but I would say that it’s good that it happened now because it would actually prepare us well for the World Cup. Now we know which areas we need to work on, we know how to work on the areas we are lacking. This will help us play together as a team. It’s never easy to face the media or take criticisms, but it is the fact that we are all there for each other and that gives us confidence. Our fans also back us and that helps us to go out there and perform to the best of our abilities.
Even you struggled in that series. Looking back, what do you think went wrong? What are the lessons from that series?
Honestly, it was not the series I wanted it to be. A few players also told me that every cricketer goes through this phase and it’s just how you take it. You can either learn from it or just go downhill. I jotted down a few points which I need to work on, but I am not overthinking. That time is gone, now it is a new day, a new tournament. I do not want to think about the past and what happened, rather I want to focus on what I can do now.
But yes, I have been working on a few points and I think it is just a matter of one good innings. Once I get that, nothing can stop me. It’s not that I have not been batting well, but I think had this phase not come, I would not have worked harder. I would have perhaps gone with the same flow.
But this has opened my eyes to so many other things, and it has got the best out of me.
Can you elaborate on what exactly you worked on?
I just worked on my basics and on slight technical things. To get that good feel about batting is important for any player. We did not get many chances to play matches, but I have been practising.
And for any batter, to get that confidence is most important. For me, every time I middle the ball, it boosts my confidence.
After the England series, the Indian team will play a pink-ball Test against Australia. How do you plan to approach the format — where even the men’s team has struggled?
At the moment, I am just excited to play my first Test. I have not even thought about how the pink ball would behave, first let the UK tour get over, then we can talk about it.
Do you think that a good show in the Test against England could actually pave way for more Tests in the future?
This Test match is very important for all of us because a good result there would obviously lead to many more Test matches in the future. More than pressure, that will be a motivation for us. We want women’s cricket to excel, we want to play Test cricket and we will give our 100 percent, when we go out there. We will play the best so that we get to play more Test matches and set the standard.
Isn’t it equally important to have regular red ball tournaments in domestic cricket, so that players who are not part of the national side can also get accustomed to the longer format of the game?
Looking at the circumstances around, it is not easy. We would definitely like to play more matches. We just have one senior women’s tournament, so obviously, the girls are looking forward to going out and playing — be it white ball or red ball. But it just depends on the circumstances. The BCCI is trying its best to arrange those matches. I am sure they are on. We used to play three-day or two-day games. So, I think once things are back to normal, everything will start. More the matches we play, the better it is for us.
Over the last couple of years, a lot of youngsters have made it to the national team. Personally, how do you enjoy the competition with Shafali Verma?
(Laughs) It is how you take it, and it just gets the best out of you. It is a healthy competition. We are best of friends — Shafali, Smriti and I. We have a lot of fun, so it’s not that we have anything against each other. At the same time, this competition is important, because otherwise it will keep all of us stagnated. This helps us work hard and ensure that we give our best on the field. I personally feel that this competition brings the best out of you.
The team has a new coach in Ramesh Powar. Having worked with him in the past, what are your thoughts on his comeback?
The good thing is that Ramesh sir has worked with the team before, so he has a good idea of who does what. It will be easier for him to plan and work together as a team. Obviously, there are a few new faces in the team with whom he has not worked with, but we have played under him a lot. Ramesh sir is someone who loves planning and he makes sure that he has a back-up plan and he tells each player about their roles and how to go about it. I am looking forward to working with him.
The next few months are going to be tough for you. So, what are your plans for the long English summer?
Personally, I am not trying to put too much expectations on myself. In the past, I would put too much pressure on myself and that was not helping me to be myself and enjoy the sport I love. I never want to lose that joy. So, the main thing would be to ensure that I don’t put myself under pressure. Obviously, the other thing will be to play according to my role and be more consistent. If I can take the responsibility, we will have a good batting order. That’s my plan.
These days, the women’s team is under scrutiny after almost every series. There are criticisms, controversies on social media. As a player, how do you stay away from all these and focus on your game? How challenging is it?
Nowadays, we live in the world of social media. More than television, you get information from social media — which is both good and bad. It depends on how you take it and what you take. I am personally trying to stay away from it. I have uninstalled Instagram from my phone. I am not saying whether it’s right or wrong, but it’s just that I will be in a better frame of mind and will not have unwanted thoughts. There are times when you keep scrolling Instagram, you read something and then unnecessary thoughts get stuck in your head. I don’t want that to happen.
I want to have my own space and want to enjoy what I do. I have my guitar, my friends. We will be going to the UK and have practices. It’s not easy as youngsters to stay away from social media, but it’s all about how you take it. You need to be disciplined and it is better if you are away from it.
But you are quite active on social media and have a huge following. Was this a conscious move or did you decide to take a break?
Over the last few weeks, I felt that I was getting too addicted to Instagram. So, initially I thought how will I survive without it during the quarantine? But I decided to give it a shot. A few days ago, I uninstalled the app and felt much better. Now, I am spending more time with the guitar.
Before every tour, I usually uninstall Instagram. It helps in staying away from the random comments, because at the end of the day, I am not here to please people, I am here to play the game for my country.
But later, if I feel like, I might get back (laughs) .
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