Many resurrections of Jemimah Rodrigues

Jemimah Rodrigues in action © Sri Lanka Cricket

Some cricketers seem to get scrutinised more than others irrespective of what they do. In men’s cricket, Rohit Sharma – sometimes for a good reason – faced that early in his career, Rishabh Pant is another. But when it comes to women’s cricket, Jemimah Rodrigues has become one of those figures over the years. Her inclusion, omission, her performances/ non-performances, and even her social media feed goes under the microscope whenever India are playing an international match in any of the three formats.

Rodrigues is always making a comeback or under the scanner or under pressure to perform regardless of her last act. While her numbers in the ODI circuit haven’t been great, leading to her exclusion from the side multiple times, it’s a whole another debate whether she deserved that axe for the 50-over version; the talented right-hander is forced to prove from time to time that she has a claim to be one of the top batters in T20Is.

Playing in her 51st T20I, Rodrigues was making yet another return to the side after being excluded from the New Zealand tour and World Cup 2022. Ideally, her numbers in T20Is should make her a sure starter for any side – no other player has scored more runs than Rodrigues in the format as a teenager and she was the youngest to 1000 T20I runs. But Rodrigues’ world has been far from ideal; she was made to sit out from the T20I leg of the multi-format series in England and then had another comeback of sorts when she made it to the T20I XI in Australia before missing the bus to New Zealand.

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When Rodrigues took the field against Sri Lanka in the first match in Dambulla, her T20I numbers didn’t matter, it was about reminding the world what she is capable of in case they had forgotten that. None of this is new for Rodrigues, even in her most successful format. And she wouldn’t have got a better country than Sri Lanka do it.

“These are very similar tracks to (those) back there in Mumbai. In Mumbai, you get the turning tracks and slow tracks, and I am a good sweeper of the ball because of that. So being in Mumbai has helped me tackle these conditions and adjust my game to these conditions,” Rodrigues said after the first T20I.

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It was 2018, despite impressing everyone from her T20I debut in South Africa, Rodrigues sat out and watched India succumb to their first Asia Cup defeats in any format as Bangladesh lifted the T20 edition. Day after her 18th birthday, the diminutive batter walked in on the third ball of the innings with Smriti Mandhana falling early.

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Rodrigues scored 36 off 15 balls including three consecutive sixes in a stroke-filled knock that helped India launch in the power play and eventually finished on a competitive total of 168. She ended the tour as the player of the series with 191 runs from four innings at an average of 63.66 and 155.28 strike rate. And there were no question marks over her place in the side until her intermittent ODI appearances and performances caught up with her in the shortest format as well.

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Jemimah Rodrigues has a stellar record in Sri Lanka © Sri Lanka Cricket

Cut to Sri Lanka of 2022, Rodrigues walked in with India in trouble once again 56 for 3 in the tenth over. She had never batted this low in a T20I before, and it was her first international outing since October 2021. The stage was set for her to take it.

Another 36  – a completely contrasting one from the knock she played almost four years back – followed as she helped India recover to 138 for 6, which eventually proved to be enough. An unbeaten 27-ball innings against fledgling opposition wouldn’t mean much at most times. But this was different.

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“I am back in the Indian team after four-five months, maybe more than that. I was very pumped up today; I really didn’t think about the player of the match or anything like that. Anytime you wear the India jersey you are naturally pumped up and this is something that always works for me. I love to be aggressive,” Rodrigues said.

Three balls into her innings on Thursday, Rodrigues lost her skipper Harmanpreet Kaur and it was up to her to take down Sri Lanka spinners, while also making sure that India’s main batters played most of the 20 overs. She started with one of her ‘latest of late cuts’ as she dabbed one to third for a boundary.

Jemimah Rodrigues

Jemimah Rodrigues playing a late cut © Sri Lanka Cricket

“After getting the late cut boundary, I felt much more confident because I was a bit nervous coming back in after a long time. Getting that boundary got me going,” she added.

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She didn’t have much of the strike in the next few overs, but post that she managed to run fast and played those dabs and her trademark sweeps. She also hit two boundaries in the process. Eventually, she finished the innings in style as she launched Kavisha Dilhari over long-on for the only six of the match.

Much has changed between the two contrasting 36s; in 2018, Rodrigues walked in to join the towering Mithali Raj and in 2018, she was joined by young Richa Ghosh first and Rodrigues was the senior batter from there on.

Jemimah Rodrigues is youngest to 1000 runs in T20Is © Women’s CricZone

“I think my height is the same but mental thing has changed a lot because in the last few years, from the last Sri Lanka tour, my journey has not been very smooth and it’s been a lot of ups and downs, and it’s not been easy,” Rodrigues added.

“But I also had the opportunity in the last few months to talk with cricketers like Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant and all. Just hearing them speak – they told me that these moments actually define you and prepare you for something greater that’s coming. Normally you look at these negative situations like ‘Oh, I got dropped.’ If you look at it negatively, it’s not going to help. But these are the moments that actually define you as a cricketer.”

Rodrigues has resurrected herself once again – four years after doing it for the first time in the same country, and two T20I innings after the comeback 49* off 36 in October last year – with yet another knock of guile and gumption. And when they test her again, she will be ready with her next resurrection act.