Image Courtesy Lavita Rodrigues' facebook account
Image Courtesy Lavita Rodrigues’ facebook account

Jemimah Rodrigues was a star in the making even before India Women left for South Africa. Her performances in domestic cricket had already made her a star. Before the 2017-18 domestic season went underway, Jemimah was named the captain of Mumbai team. During the one-day competition, she compiled 1,013 in the 10 innings, at a staggering average of 112.56, including 178 in the tournament opener against Gujarat, followed by 202* against Saurashtra. She had more or less stamped her authority in every competition that followed. Playing for India was only inevitable.

Finally, she had to go through the litmus test — playing for India, that too on South African soil. She played all 5 T20Is, scored 37 on debut and bettered that with 44 in the last match. She finished with 87 runs from 3 innings with a strike rate of 123.

For her parents — Ivan and Lavita — it was nothing less than a dream come true. Just like her father has been doing since Jemimah was 4 years old, Ivan accompanied her to South Africa as well.

However, this was completely unplanned. “I was not to travel with Jemimah for the tour. Even Ivan had no plans to travel along with Jemimah. It was a last-minute thing. We did not have the passports in place. The passport and visa were arranged two days prior to the tournament,” Lavita told CricketCountry.

The South Africa experience as a father cum coach narrates

The experience and atmosphere was completely different in South Africa. While Indian stadiums were empty for women’s matches, there were people — albeit not many — dancing to music and enjoying the game in South Africa, especially when they coincided with the men’s matches.

Ivan, Jemimah’s father and personal coach, narrates his experience: “I was given a VIP stand. The moment I saw Jemimah stepping out with the Indian jersey, it was a dream come true. I was sitting with the South African people. So I moved away from them and sat with the Indian people. In the final T20I, the stadium was half filled. Watching the crowd, I believe the girls are gaining momentum. My friend from US told me that he has stopped watching men’s game. The social media and telecast is making a lot of difference.”

The first T20I saw India off to a blistering start. Smriti Mandhana and Mithali Raj exploded with a barrage of boundaries. The momentum soon shifted and South Africa dismissed Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur in consecutive balls. At that point one felt India would, not for the first time, bank on Mithali to bail them out. But in came Jemimah and stole the limelight.

Her 27-ball 37 left Ivan stunned: “She came at an immense pressure situation. Smriti and Harmanpreet were gone. I was wondering what Jemimah will do now. Will she rotate the strike or she go all out? But she held her nerves. In fact she released the pressure from Mithali. Jemimah’s cameo was the turning point of India winning that game. It is not easy to play those shots on a bouncy track.”

It was not just the bat, but Jemimah showed her fielding skills as well with an out-of-the-world catch at deep mid-wicket to remove Marizanne Kapp. Her father had got the best view: “Kapp had timed the ball so well. I felt it would have gone for a six. Jemimah also balanced herself well. In fact, I was sitting just behind Jemimah when she took the catch. Jemimah loves fielding. Her India camp and the domestic tournament have helped her. She has practised for six months with Tushar Arothe and Biju George. So the credit goes to them.”

Back home, things were different. Jemimah’s mother and her brothers were seen celebrating their little girl’s success: “I was done with the tuitions (science and maths) early that day and did not want to miss the game. When she took that catch my sons and I were hi-fiving each other, shouting. It was a turning point of the match.”

And then, there was her batting in the final T20I: “Jemimah’s batting was crucial in the final T20I. The final T20I also saw Mandhana being dismissed for 13. India were then 34 for 1. India had to maintain their run rate. I could see Jemimah was rotating the strike in the initial 5 balls and later she went all out. She took her time to settle. In fact, it was planned innings by Mithali and Jemimah. They knew which bowler to target.”

Advice from Jemimah’s personal coach

After a splendid debut, Jemimah made her state proud at Rajkot in the U-23 tournament with a 78-ball 73 against Maharashtra on Tuesday. On the other hand, she also earned her ODI call-up, for the Australia series. However, Ivan was not too keen to send her for U-23 tournament: “If I had my way I would want her to concentrate on the Australia tour. My advice to her for the ODI has been to play only 150 balls.”

India’s ODI series against Australia is scheduled to begin March 12. Jemimah has pinned her hopes on making her debut for India in ODIs as well.