Jemimah Rodrigues: Just want to live a normal life
In a freewheeling interview with mid-day, India's star batswoman Jemimah Rodrigues opens up on her love for masti, social media and passion to do what is best for the team no matter which position she walks in to bat
We know her for her powerful drives, but Jemimah Rodrigues is still to learn how to drive…a car that is. But who needs to drive when you are flown around in a private jet now and then. Since September 2018, Rodrigues has scored more than 500 runs in 19 innings in T20I cricket, and was ranked as high as No. 2 in the ICC T20I Rankings. This year, she became the second Indian to score a century at the Women's Cricket Super League in England. Petite and polite, mid-day caught up with the Indian batter in Vadodara for an exclusive chat about cricket and other curiosities.
Edited excerpts from the interview.
Your Instagram is one of the most authentic, fun accounts among players, especially your Q & A stories. I believe you have some help with that?
(Laughs) My brothers help me out with editing. My eldest brother Enoch is into video editing. I just like to be who I am on Instagram. In the dressing room I'm the kind of person who does a lot of masti, so I didn't want to fake it on Insta and be serious. Sometimes on tours I'm off Insta, so I send my brothers content and ask them to post.
The video of you sitting in a miniature Audi toy car was just hilarious.
Audi was my middle brother Eli's idea. He does even more masti than me! But it's all of us together. Honestly, my whole family is crazy (grins).
India's Jemimah Rodrigues in action v England during the Mumbai ODI on February 22 this year. Pic/AFP
Do you read stuff written about you on the internet?
Sometimes, when people tag me. But sometimes I realise it's not helping me and then I switch off. I do that from Insta too. I can get addicted. When I have nothing to do, I'll just take my phone and scroll, scroll, scroll. And then I realise it's 45 minutes! True story. Then I uninstall the app, and I find it more peaceful.
You are 19 and have to be professional about things, even like Instagram. How do you deal with that?
I think as you play you realise that you have got to get that professionalism in you. Sometimes, I do feel like I just want to live a normal life, with no restrictions, and do what a 19-year old would be doing. But if you see, playing has helped develop my character. I am more careful about what I say in public; that helps me develop. So it has it's benefits and I'm really happy I'm able to do this.
Virat Kohli recently said in an interview that the Indian team lives in a royal jail. Is that true for the women?
That's true. During the 2018 WT20 in the West Indies, we actually felt like that. We were under tight security and really got bored in the hotel. Even when I started, we went to South Africa, then played three series back to back at home. By the last one, we were tired of seeing each other's faces, so we try to get out. In New Zealand we hardly stayed in the room. We would go for walks and that kept us fresh. But in the West Indies, it felt like what Virat Kohli said is right – it's a five-star jail.
Coming to cricket. You bat in different positions in the two formats. Which do you prefer?
Opening, anytime. I like playing the new ball. I like playing in the Powerplay. When I bat one-down there are usually only a few overs of that Powerplay. So at one-down I have to build my innings, That's my role. But opening, I can go bang-bang.
Have you had discussions with the team management about why you bat at No. 3 in T20Is even though that's not your preferred natural game?
It's not my preferred natural game but I can manage it and I'm doing pretty well. It's not like I'm changing my game a lot. Even if I opened, after the Powerplay that's what I would do. The
team wants me to build an innings so people can revolve around me. I go well with Smriti (at No. 1/2) and Harman (Harmanpreet Kaur) also (at No. 4). I'm someone who can do that well, at a good strike rate. It's about what the team needs. As long as the team is winning, I'm happy to play even lower down.
Right now you are a regular in the team but last year you weren't so certain of your place. How did that feel?
It was at the Asia Cup (June 2018). One game before that, I scored a fifty versus Australia, but in the Asia Cup I didn't get a chance to play. In the nets I was struggling a bit, but till now I don't know why I didn't get any opportunity. I didn't ask anyone also. I started doubting myself, asking myself, 'Am I good enough to be at the international level?' I came back from the Asia Cup and my mom could make out (I was down). She asked me what happened, and I started crying, I broke down. I told her, I don't know what's happening, I'm trying to be joyful and happy, but I can't. The next day after practice, going back in the car with Dada (her father), he asked me, are you ok? And I broke down again. Then he told me something that really touched me. He said that if God has brought you this far, he won't stop now. He will finish what he started. So, we started working even harder on my batting, hitting uppish shots, improving my strike rate. After that, came the Challenger Trophy (August 2018), and I lost my focus there. I went out of the way to prove to people that I am the kind of a person who can score, and I had no scores that time (1, 0, 0, 10).
You still made the next tour of Sri Lanka (September 2018) .
Yes, and there Ramesh (Powar, the then coach) sir came and asked me, 'Jemi, why did you start playing cricket?' I said because I love playing. He said, 'You're trying to prove to people, and you don't have to; you're the best and that's why you are selected.' That made a lot of sense.
But then, you got a duck again?
Yes, I got one chance in the XI in the last ODI and again got 0. I thought sh*t, what's happening? I was unsure of my place, so there was that insecurity, plus I was doubting myself. But before the T20Is, Harry di (Harmanpreet) came up and told me, 'Jemi, don't worry, you are playing all five T20s'. When she told me that, it put me at ease. In the first game, I was nervous, but I hit an early boundary off a left-arm seamer. That boundary changed everything, those 35 runs (36 in 15 balls) I scored in that innings, that changed everything. I got two fifties later in the series, but that one boundary was more important. Now people ask me in interviews, what advice would you give the Jemi of one year ago or two years ago? I say this: Play cricket for the reason you started playing cricket. Pressure and all will come but never lose that joy you get while middling a ball and taking a catch.
The author is a former India cricketer, now a broadcaster and journalist. She hosts the YouTube channel Cricket With Snehal, and tweets @SnehalPradhan
Sign up for all the latest news, top galleries and trending videos from Mid-day.comSubscribe
Sports experts react to Ranveer Singh's look as Kapil Dev!