The fact that her teammates Harmanpreet Kaur and Sophie Devine consumed 19 deliveries among them for 10 runs and that no other player besides her and Velocity’s Danielle Wyatt could score freely highlights how difficult the track was for batting.
Jemimah avoided risky shots, and focused on not over-hitting the ball. When left-arm pacer Komal Zanzad was in action, she took strides forward and drove on the up. She greeted Hayley Matthews with a sweep past backward square and when spinners Amelia Kerr and Ekta Bisht were operating, she targeted square of the wicket and focused on getting singles. Between overs 6.4 to 11, she faced 11 deliveries but did not score a single boundary only to shift gears after the dismissal of Chamari Athapaththu.
Once she found her groove, Rodrigues was a delight to watch as she lofted length balls over deep midwicket, swept balls to square leg and leaned into tossed up balls to send them over the covers, taking her team to 142 and ensuring victory.
It was in February last year when social media was abuzz about the prodigy from Mumbai. Called up for the South African tour after a sensational season with the Mumbai Under-19 team in 2017-18, where she amassed 1013 runs with five hundreds and a double ton, the 18-year old made her debut in the first T20I at Potchefstroom. At only five feet three inches, she wasn’t an imposing figure, but her technical prowess and obvious ability were there to see as she smashed Ayabonga Khaka for two fours and a six in the sixth over of the innings, chasing a stiff target of 165.
Her 27-ball knock of 37 runs after India had lost two quick wickets ensured that the run-rate was always within reach. Though she might have been overshadowed by Mithali Raj’s Player of the Match performance and Veda Krishnamurthy’s 22-ball 37 at the end, she had done enough to be touted as a future star. A year and some odd weeks after that debut game, Jemimah stands as one of the three musketeers in an otherwise inconsistent and wobbly batting order.
Having played cricket, it was Jemimah’s father Ivan who influenced his three children to focus on sport. While his sons played junior level cricket, Jemimah didn’t just excel at cricket but also in hockey and basketball. She was blessed with lightening pace and had incredible dribbling skills as well and soon represented Mumbai’s U-19 Hockey team as a centre-forward. Her abilities impressed then-coach of the Indian Field Hockey Team Joaquim Carvalho, who had termed her as a “gifted” player, but when presented with a choice, Jemimah turned to cricket.
(Image: Twitter/Mohandas Menon)
At the MIG Club at Bandra, she started practicing with boys. Around the same time, Prithvi Shaw and Arjun Tendulkar too joined the academy, and the trio would hone their skills together. She caught the attention of the Mumbai selectors when she was just 12-and-a-half, and was called up to the state U-19 side. Though she even featured in the Maharashtra State hockey team at the U-17 and the U-19 level, Jemimah knew cricket was to be her calling when she was made the captain in 2016.
There has been no looking back since.
Jemimah continued her surge, scoring 665 runs over ten innings in 2016-17, and followed it up with a record-breaking tally the next season for Mumbai in the U-19 one day competition. A fine run in the Challengers the same year fast forwarded her entry into the national team, and over the last few months she has stood out for her powerful elegance on the field and her infectious energy off it.
This year, the limited-overs series against England presented Jemimah with an opportunity to play on her home ground at the Wankhede Stadium. The teenager showed no signs of nerves against the new ball as England’s Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole found some early morning moisture to exploit. She controlled her attacking instincts upfront and instead offered a dead-bat.
Only when the ball had worn out and the surface had dried up that she displayed the array of shots in her arsenal. Playing in front of square, dancing down to the spinners, lofting fearlessly over the infield or trying out extravagant shots like the upper cut to top-score with 48, Jemimah was at her attractive best.
This maturity had already been on display in the second T20I against New Zealand as well earlier this year, when she came in to bat in the third over and piled on 63 runs with Smriti Mandhana. Despite a collapse after Mandhana was dismissed in the tenth over, Jemimah held one end up and curbed her natural instincts.
Having hit one six and three fours while her senior partner was alongside her, she did not hit a single boundary between overs 10 to 16, yet maintained a strike rate of more than 100. She finally broke the self-imposed shackles in the 19th over as she took 14 off Amelia Kerr’s over to finish with 72 off 53 balls and give India a score of 135 to defend. Though it was not enough in the end, once again her calm approach at such a young age was widely applauded.
However, not everything has been hunky-dory. Dropped from the playing 11 in the Asia Cup due to poor form in the nets and an equally dismal Challengers Trophy where she made scores of 10, 0, 0 and 1 just ahead of the tour to Sri Lanka last year meant Jemimah had to find solutions, like changing her grip to get more power in her shots or working on her timing. Her father worked with her on generating more power with a higher backswing and bat speed and the results were almost instantaneous.
Her record-breaking three consecutive sixes against Sri Lanka - the first by an Indian woman - was just the confidence boost that she needed, and as she finished 2018 as the No. 6 player in the ICC T20I rankings, it was clear. She IS the next big thing in Indian cricket.
And now, at a tournament touted as the precursor to a potential women’s IPL, she has already stamped her class.
First Published: May 10, 2019, 10:36 PM IST