Jemimah Rodrigues after her double-century against Saurashtra Photo Courtesy: Jemimah Rodrigues Instagram Account
Jemimah Rodrigues after her double-century against Saurashtra Photo Courtesy: Jemimah Rodrigues Instagram Account

Remember South Africa’s Shania-Lee Swart, the schoolgirl who had smashed an 86-ball 160 when none of her teammates got off the mark in a total of 169 for 8 in 20 overs? Mind you, Shania-Lee had earlier scored 289 out of a total of 352 in a 50-over game in an Under-19 tournament. It looks like India have found their own version of Shania-Lee Swart as well.

On the opening day of the Women’s Under-19 inter-state One-Day competition, Mumbai’s Jemimah Rodrigues had scored 178, then her highest domestic cricket score, against Gujarat. In other words, she fell short of the 200-run mark by 22. She made up for that on Sunday with an unbeaten 163-ball 202 against Saurashtra.

“I never imagined I could score a double-century in that innings. It never crossed my mind,” confessed a thrilled Jemimah to CricketCountry.

She was the second girl in U-19 limited-overs cricket to bring up a double-century, after Smriti Mandhana. Smriti had smashed an unbeaten 150-ball 224 (famously with Rahul Dravid’s bat), for West Zone at Vadodara in 2013.

Smriti’s feat had gone largely unnoticed. However, the 2017 Women’s World Cup has created significant interest for women’s cricket among the Indian public to the extent that people actually started experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Not only Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami, the aam junta could finally recognise stars like Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana and Veda Krishnamurthy.

India Women had welcomed Devika Vaidya and Deepti Sharma to the squad at the age of 19 following remarkable progress in domestic cricket.

Will Jemimah be the next to make the cut in blues? Although that is her next aspiration, the 17-year old had a tough road to her rise.

Of childhood and family

Veda had stayed away from her parents to become a cricketer, although she began her route to this sport after earning a black belt in karate. Vanitha VR, the youngest in her family, had to sacrifice on her academics to focus on cricket. Devika had to impersonate as a boy just to play cricket with the street kids.

Not all superheroes wear capes. Jemimah with her father Ivan Rodrigues Photo Courtesy: Jemimah's Instagram Account
Not all superheroes wear capes. Jemimah with her father Ivan Rodrigues Photo Courtesy: Jemimah’s Instagram Account

Jemimah was fortunate to receive plenty of support from her parents. Her father Ivan Rodrigues is the coach of her school team. At the age when girls play with Barbie dolls, Jemimah was fascinated by the cricket bat and the red ball.

She found her idols quickly: “I started playing cricket looking at my elder brothers. I was the only girl in my house and I did whatever my brothers used to do.”

She was a brave girl. She was often the only girl in a boys-only match, that too where the boys were senior to her. She also had her own set of challenges.

In her interview with CricketCountry Vanitha had mentioned how she missed her teenage days and spending time with college friends by going for movies or chilling in the Bengaluru pubs.

Vanitha VR: A rebel who battled the odds
Vanitha VR: A rebel who battled the odds

Jemimah, too, yearned for picnics and holidays with her family during school days. The month of May was meant for selection processes. Jemimah was forced to stay back with either her mother or father while the rest of the family enjoyed the summer vacations.

But she has no regrets: “Today when I look back, I think it was worth sacrificing those holidays.”

She was constantly mentored by Ivan during this period. He held her hand and took her for practices. As a coach, he worked on her batting too. He kept aside their financial restraints aside and invested in a bowling machine worth INR 1 lakh.

Jemimah credits her father’s sacrifices for where she stands today: “It has helped me a lot especially being an opening batter.”

The sight of the petite Jemimah holding her father’s hand and a cricket kit was welcomed with giggles when she had showed up at the training camp at Shivaji Park in 2008. Nevertheless, she stunned the girls when she got a wicket with her second ball before getting selected for the future local matches.

The girl, who disliked those practice sessions, eventually fell in love with the game.

Of school and sports

It had all began at St Joseph Convent school, Bandra. Right from the third standard she was inclined to hockey. Interestingly, Shania-Lee was (still is) a prolific hockey player.

Jemimah also pursued basketball and football, all of them simultaneously. Cricket happened around the same time: “At a point, everything started clashing. It was time I made a decision. So I chose hockey and cricket.” Cricket might be her first love, but given an opportunity, Jemimah would love to play hockey as well.

Sister Blanche, principal of her school, stood by her at this point (and later): “When my father went and spoke about his dream and told her about enrolling me in cricket, she gave us permission right away. Not just her even the teachers and staff have been very supportive.”

Jemimah attended school only for the important lectures and exams, spending the remaining time practicing cricket. However, she neither let the school nor her parents down: she passed the board exams with flying colours with a whopping 80 per cent, despite attending the final year of school only for five days. When I asked current school girls about Jemimah’s achievements, they answered in unison, “yes, she is an inspiration for us.”

Suparna, her seventh standard class-teacher as well as mathematics teacher, could not stop heaping praise on her: “She was an obedient student. She received 91 per cent marks in Maths. Whenever she missed any lectures, her mother would come over, take the notes and teach her.”

Sister Blanche almost had tears in her eyes while recalling Jemimah’s school days: “Whenever she had her practices, she came early to school. She was quite disciplined. Her practices went on well. Out of the school when she went for any match, wherever she was, she used to call me and seek my blessings. Those are the values she had. She even visited my office after her double century and sought blessings from me for the remainder of the tournament. Her honesty is commendable. She is an inspiring girl. We are happy for her success.”

Featured article on Jemimah Rodrigues on her school's bulletin board Photo Courtesy: CricketCountry
Featured article on Jemimah Rodrigues on her school’s bulletin board Photo Courtesy: CricketCountry

She was felicitated during her school days for her success in sports several times. Today, the school takes pride of her success by displaying relevant news and articles on the bulletin board just outside her classroom.

Meet and greet with the big names

It was a only matter of time before Jemimah had the opportunity to rub shoulders with big guns like Mithali. Although most of them have not interacted with her, they knew her by name. Jemimah, however, shares a special bond with Devika with whom she has played in the West Zone.

Devika, too, was glad on Jemimah reaching this milestone. She had something else to share as well: “She is very talented and focused, but apart from that Jemmy is a gem of a person. She is also the biggest prankster of the team. That is one of reason we get along so well.”

The next-gen stars of India Women Photo Courtesy: Jemimah Rodrigues Instagram Account
The next-gen stars of India Women Photo Courtesy: Jemimah Rodrigues Instagram Account

Jemimah also shared the crease with Smriti during the senior zonal tournament last year. She admits to being inspired by Smriti, and how overwhelmed she is to join the elite 200-run club: “She is one of India Women’s best batters. I know her personally and have played with her. She is sweet and a very hardworking person too. She is an inspiration to me.”

Jemimah’s ticket to India Women’s team got simpler with Tushar Arothe present in Aurangabad to witness her double ton. Tushar was the coach of India A, which was how he stumbled upon this rising star. Jemimah recalls how he has helped her out with both batting and fielding: “Tushar-Sir has been very supportive. I did want to do well in front of him. He has coached me earlier and it was a good experience. My fielding has improved and he has brought minute changes in my backlift.”

Jemimah is slowly weathering into the Indian Eves with every single day. With the Super Sixes approaching, she has more records to crack.

Who said what?

After her memorable innings against Saurashtra, every women cricketer made it a point to congratulate Jemimah. Here is what the who’s who of cricket fraternity had to say about Jemimah to CricketCountry:

Mamatha Maben: “Her name has been doing the rounds for the past couple of years, not only in the juniors but also in the senior circuit. So this does not come as surprise. Having said that, the magnanimity of her knock only gladdens one’s heart and augurs well for the future of the game in India.”

Veda Krishnamurthy: “I am very happy and proud of her. I am excited to see the transition she makes in the future. All the best to her.”

Vanitha VR: “She is a very busy player who loves playing her kind of shots. I have seen her drive the ball really well.”

Smriti Mandhana to Deccan Chronicles“I am amazed when a young girl of sixteen could smash 200 runs. I hope she plays for India one day. She should continue to score more runs like this and then the selectors will have no reason to ignore her claim.”

The road ahead…

The U-19 One-Day competition has reached the Super Sixes stage. Mumbai have progressed from the league stages. Jemimah may have more records coming her way. She also has the opportunity to hone her skills under Tushar during the India A series later in the month.

Meanwhile, she continues to pursue academics as well. She goes to the extremely supportive Rizvi College, Bandra, where appearing for the examinations has been sufficient for her.

Jemimah also specially thanked her Spiritual Director Bro Manuel and her almighty for the success so far.

She hopes to one day achieve the same heights like her favourite Indian cricketer Rohit Sharma and maintain the consistency like Mithali.