Be a Jemimah Rodrigues and you’ll be fine: A lesson on the power of self-belief

On Tuesday, Jemimah played a match-winning knock against Mumbai Indians, an opponent the Capitals have consistently faltered against in two seasons.

Published : Mar 06, 2024 15:21 IST , NEW DELHI - 8 MINS READ

Delhi Capitals batter Jemimah Rodrigues plays a shot during the Women’s Premier League 2024.
Delhi Capitals batter Jemimah Rodrigues plays a shot during the Women’s Premier League 2024. | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR/The Hindu

Delhi Capitals batter Jemimah Rodrigues plays a shot during the Women’s Premier League 2024. | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR/The Hindu

There’s no dearth of overthinkers in the game of cricket. This week, in a stadium bathed in the glory of the Himalayas, one marks a century of Tests, with plaudits flowing in from near and far, teammate and rival.

Approximately 475 kms away, another overthinker, albeit much younger, bludgeoned her way to a knock that will go down as one of her best. Not so much for its flamboyance or how clinically it snatched any chance of a win away from the opponent, but for the lesson it ended up being in the power of self-confidence. 

Jemimah Rodrigues, playing for Delhi Capitals in the Women’s Premier League (WPL), is known as much for her elegance with the bat as she is for her eloquence off it. Despite being all of 23, she has found a way to make the invisible masses her best friend, baring her heart and her vulnerabilities in failure and success.

Tuesday’s match-winning knock against Mumbai Indians, an opponent Capitals have consistently faltered against in two seasons, was another valuable chapter on finding the courage to back oneself.

Looking within

It isn’t easy being Jemimah. In her age bracket are the likes of Laura Wolvaardt, Hayley Matthews or Alice Capsey (who is yet to breach the twenties), most of whom are bossing T20s with their big-hitting capabilities. Jemimah, in her own words, isn’t a natural power-hitter. Her physical structure demands greater effort to make those big sixes happen regularly. She relies on her intelligence more, using her timing and placement.

However, even the best succumb to the dark shadows of doubt. Before her unbeaten and eventually match-winning 33-ball 69, two poor scores got critics murmuring yet again. 

Against Gujarat Giants, she fell to a slower one from Mannat Kashyap after edging to Tarannum Pathan at short third while trying to go aerial. A match prior, she could not open her account against Royal Challengers Bangalore, falling to Nadine de Klerk while trying to loft the ball over mid-off. 

“I wouldn’t agree fully with you (about hitting a lean patch), sorry for that. I did score runs. I think the first two games I got some good scores. In one game, I got one ball and I hit a four, strike rate of 400,” Jemimah quipped, always one to make a joke at her own expense.

When the laughter eased, Jemimah got real, much like how her teammates and friends did in the run-up to the MI vs DC WPL fixture. 

“In those two innings, I was trying to be something I was not. I was seeing everyone around me go out there and go bang bang. I thought I needed to do it for the team. I think cricket is a game where you need to keep improving. When you’re coming into the WPL, you never know when you will need all sorts of shots. I can’t stick to one thing and say, ‘I’m this kind of a player’, and stick to that. I need to keep improving with the game,” she explained.

ALSO READ | Phoebe Litchfield, Jemimah Rodrigues and the art of sweeping international cricket off its feet

Cheering up the cheerleader

Jemimah is one of the best hype men around. She’s there to celebrate your fifty harder than you, she’s there to pump you up for a direct-hit well done, or catch well taken. So, when the team’s biggest cheerleader needed some cheering herself, the team and her extended support system stepped up. 

“I’ve spoken a lot to Arundhati (Reddy). She helped me a lot as has Larris (Laura Harris). She is the one who came up to me and said, ‘You have such good hands, you manoeuvre the field so well. Just stick to that. That will help you.’ After that, Smriti (Mandhana) messaged me saying, ‘Don’t try to be someone else, be a Jemimah Rodrigues and you’ll be fine.’ 

“I spoke to my dad too and he said the same. ‘Just play your game, just be positive and and you know, just be you and you find the gaps effortlessly. The people who hit up - that is their strength but no one can pick gaps the way you pick gaps. So, I think, if you just stick to your strengths, it’s going to help you a lot.’ Today too, even before walking into the field, Lisa (Keightley), our coach, came to me and said the same thing. ‘I understand how it feels when you see everyone around you is going a certain way, but. Just sticking to your strengths is going to help the team and it’s going to help you because you are a very valuable member for our team.’”

The result? An energetic knock that took Delhi Capitals to 192, in its first home fixture, a comfortably competitive score against a ridiculously good opponent 

The Mumbai-based batter began cautiously, as she does. She took her time to get a feel of the Delhi pitch which has a reputation of facilitating big scores despite being a bit on the slower side. 

She got going from the 17th delivery of her innings, thumping Shabnim Ismail between long-on and deep mid-wicket for four. Jemimah made best use of wayward lines from MI to step out of her crease and make room to pick out the gaps. One shot in particular stood out — a very not-Jemimah-ish hooked six over fine-leg after stepping well outside off. Radha Yadav was seen applauding excitedly with the rest of the dugout, while MI skipper Harmanpreet Kaur was left stunned. 

“I don’t remember the last time I’ve played in Delhi, especially at the Kotla. Having played in other parts of India, this wicket was very similar to the wickets in Ranchi, which are low, but it comes on the bat and I think that suits my game a lot. Even in my stance, I stayed a little low because there was no bounce. So if you stay lower, it’s easier to time the ball and hit through the gaps,” Jemimah said.

This was advice she was happy to share with every batter who joined her in the middle. It made for an amusing sight to watch her belt down instructions to veterans like Meg Lanning and Marizanne Kapp, sprinkling it with generous fist bumps and screams of encouragement.

Delhi Capitals’ batter Meg Lanning is congratulated by teammate Jemimah Rodrigues after scoring a half-century during the Women’s Premier League.
Delhi Capitals’ batter Meg Lanning is congratulated by teammate Jemimah Rodrigues after scoring a half-century during the Women’s Premier League. | Photo Credit: PTI

Delhi Capitals’ batter Meg Lanning is congratulated by teammate Jemimah Rodrigues after scoring a half-century during the Women’s Premier League. | Photo Credit: PTI

“When Meg came on, she was used to the conditions so she initially talked me through the conditions. Once I got used to it, Marizanne was here by then, I kept telling her where they were going to target us. The boundaries were short and so the MI bowlers kept going wide. So I told her they’re going to target her wide and I told her about the slow wicket. I told her to stay low because there was a lot of difference in bounce from what we saw in Chinnaswamy and how it is here. So I told Kapp that if she stayed low, she’d be able to connect better. Sometimes instinct also tells you what the opponent is trying to do. So I was just trying to help her out there,” she added.

Local heroes

A product of the Mumbai nursery of cricket, Jemimah has faced many tough seasons in cricket, with a wealth of experience in the game having broken into the international scene six years ago. From Jhulan Goswami (current MI bowling coach), and WV Raman (former India head coach) to teammates across national and franchise sides, she has found support, technical and emotional, from different quarters. But in her quest to stay true to her repertoire, Jemimah looks up to Virat Kohli. 

“I think Virat Kohli does that really well and I really look up to him because we have similar positions in the Indian team. The way he goes about things, he runs well between the wickets, he has intent while batting. Even when he hits sixes, he hits it in the gaps. So, if he hits it, it’s either two runs, four runs or a six if he hits it too well. So, I think that’s what I try to implement in my game too.”

Very much at home

This was Delhi Capitals’ first home game, at the Arun Jaitley Stadium. While the Mohinder Amarnath stand saw crowds flooding in, particularly in the lower and middle tier, and fans scattering themselves in the seats across the stadium (official attendance not disclosed as yet), Delhi still has a few miles to go to match the enthusiasm Bengaluru showed while hosting the first leg of the edition.

Innings like this from Jemimah got fans to the fences, roaring in jubilation, particularly when the one at the receiving end is the defending champion and an established adversary in the men’s franchise vertical. 

There is some poetic justice then that in a Mumbai vs Delhi clash, a Mumbaikar led Delhi to victory and made the venue and the crowd her own. In the press box, this reporter saw catering staff struggling to look away from the television screens installed in the dining area.

Arey thod di usne! Kya sahi mara hai. Sirf 30 balls mein 60! (Oh she’s broken them. What a shot, just 30 balls to get to the 60s)”.

The layman will not know of the countless trials by fire Jemimah has had to go through. Those who are in the know realise it through the human side she’s never afraid to bare. It’s that human side that endears her so much to teammates and opponents alike. It’s why you can never not smile when ‘Jemi’ does well because in those victories lie enough proof that there is redemption in being the most authentic version of oneself.

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