TILL A year ago, 16-year-old Jemimah Rodrigues’s life revolved around the hockey astro-turf and the cricket turf. Her mornings were spent trying to score goals while the evenings were when the batsman would try to get her batting technique in order. Then, last year, she had choice to make. While she had already made a name for herself with her run-scoring exploits on the cricket field; Jemimah was picked in both the under-17 and under-19 Maharashtra hockey teams. And now left with hardly any time to juggle both sports, it was cricket that the teenager from Mulund decided to stick with.
On Sunday, her decision was justified beyond any plausible doubt as she became only the second woman after Smriti Mandhana to score a double-hundred in 50-over cricket. Jemimah scored 202 in just 163 balls at Aurangabad against Saurashtra. Her record knock came just a few days after she’d scored 178 off 142 balls against Gujarat in the under-19 tournament. Progress has been rather rapid and even meteoric for Jemimah since she was picked when only 13 for the under-19 state team.
Within a couple of years, she’s found herself being fast-tracked into the under-23 and then the senior Mumbai team.
“When it was time to choose I went with cricket but I really enjoyed playing hockey too. But since last one year, I hardly got any time. I either have under-19 matches or under-23 or zonal matches for the senior team,” the now former centre-forward tells The Indian Express before quickly adding, “I still love hockey though.”
Cricket does come rather naturally to Jemimah. Her father, Ivan, was a club cricketer and has been a junior coach for a few years. He is in-charge of the St Joseph School, where his daughter did her schooling. And she grew up bowling to her brothers Enoch and Andy from a young age. Her busy schedule means that she’s hardly home these days, even during the off-season, but the effort Jemimah insists feels worth it.
“I have really worked hard during the off season. Practicing, training twice a day. I used to go to the gym at 8am, then directly to MCA-BKC ground for practice and then go home and practice. By the time I reach home it used to be 8 pm. All the hard-work has paid off today,” she says.
The senior Rodrigues talks about being proud of his daughter excelling in two sports. He reveals to have dreamt of Jemimah representing the nation, regardless of the sport she chooses. While she has ended up picking a sport of his choice, he’s never dissuaded her from pursuing hockey.
Cricket over hockey
“In hockey you have to continuously bend and you need stamina. A lot of energy and power hitting. The basics in both sports are the same. You need arm power and wrist power. Playing hockey has also helped her in cricket. At the age of 10 she was picked for Maharashtra team in hockey. I thought she will play hockey. But then cricket happened when she was selected for MCA summer camp at the under-16 level,” Ivan, who runs coaching classes in suburban Mumbai, says.
Last year Jemimah was the top run-scorer across the country at the under-19 level with 376 runs. She averaged 376 with one century and three fifties in six games. Her consistent performances have continued this year too. She scored 222 runs in inter-zonal games for West Zone where she was captain and top-scorer in 2017. Later she won best batsman award in the senior women’s one day league held in Guntur.
Despite her life being seeped in sport, the Rodrigueses haven’t compromised on Jemimah’s academics. And Ivan has taken special permission from the Mumbai Cricket Association to help her with her studies for two hours when she’s part of a camp. And she’s proved be to be an all-rounder off the field too.
“In her 10th she got 80%. Whenever the camp used to happen in Mumbai or a nearby area, we used to teach her in the evenings. Luckily, I saw her innings today and I just thanked god,” says Ivan.