Dealing with high-pressure situations seems to come easy for the younger crop of Indian players. For 18-year-old Jemimah Rodrigues, it’s almost as if she thrives on it, and has seldom failed to contribute to her team’s cause.
It didn’t matter that she was slotted in a power-packed batting order – it has the belligerence of Chamari Athapaththu, the street-fighter in Harmanpreet Kaur, the innovative Nat Sciver and raw power of Sophie Devine.
Threading the ball through the gaps at will and manipulating the field was something three of the aforementioned stars of the Supernovas side struggled to do. But not Rodrigues. When there were bad balls on offer, she displayed a confident, copy-book technique with her drives and flicks – shots straight of a trademark Mumbai batter’s arsenal, one might say.
When there were deliveries not in her hitting zone, she was happy to run hard and keep the scoreboard moving. It was not as if the other Supernovas batters enjoyed the Jaipur surface on Thursday. Collectively, the team managed only 57 runs from 73 deliveries. Rodrigues, whose knock setup her team’s win, was streets ahead in the Twenty20 game.
Save Danielle Wyatt’s thrilling 33 ball 43, scoring runs was anything but easy on a wicket that was on the slower side. Rodrigues, though, made it look easy.
From Hockey to cricket
That Rodrigues would make it big was hardly a secret in Mumbai circles since her early teen years. Infact, it was down to a choice between two sports she was proficient in – cricket and hockey. While she is already marked out as a future star 15 months into making her international debut, hockey still had a part to play.
“Yes, I am working on it [using hockey shots to enhance my game] with my dad and several others are also helping me,” Rodrigues revealed after her blazing knock.
Her stroke-making can also be likened to that of a hockey player: The flicks, strong-bottom hand play and using her athleticism to get singles and twos at a metronomic rate. Unlike teammates Devine and Kaur, who struggled to get any kind of momentum to their innings, Rodrigues was hardly bogged down – her 48-ball 77 had just eight dots.
She was in fluent touch in the tournament opener against Smriti Mandhana’s Trailblazers as well. But an unfortunate run out ended her stay after a few classy boundaries.
There were no risky runs or shots against Velocity. Athapaththu, living a charmed life, was happy to let her younger batting partner go after the bowling. But Rodrigues thinks her initial burst could have been even better.
But there was a plan in taking on the bowlers, who were getting the ball to move away from the batters. And brute force was not exactly a go-to measure.
“I was taking my time initially and then capitalized on it,” she said. “Raman Sir [Coach WV Raman] especially has backed me always and told me to focus on not over-hitting the ball.”
Rodrigues also picked her battles wisely. She was severe against left-armer Komal Zanzad, showing a straight bat and was at her free-flowing best.
When spinners Amelia Kerr and Ekta Bisht were operating, she was deadly with the sweep shot. The area square of the wicket proved to be a happy hunting ground for the diminutive batter. After Athapaththu fell, Rodrigues seamlessly changed gears. Devine was reduced to a spectator at the other end; the New Zealand all-rounder scoring just nine of the 50 runs that were added for the fourth wicket.
There was a vote of approval from her captain as well. Kaur might have not got the opportunity to put the bowlers to the sword here but was happy to give Rodrigues the strike in the final over, a rare sight but one that spoke volumes of the belief teammates have in the latter’s ability.
It won’t be long before the major leagues in the world queue up to sign her up. As things stand, she is the highest run-getter of this tournament, having overtaken good mate Mandhana by one run.
Irrespective of where she plays, it may not faze the prodigious Rodrigues, whose rapid rise to the top echelons of women’s cricket, now has a new chapter.