Jemimah Rodrigues: The WPL and India Star Who Is Nourished by Self-Belief
Jemimah Rodrigues: The WPL and India Star Who Is Nourished by Self-Belief

Jemimah Rodrigues is one of the main faces leading the charge for women’s cricket in India. On the back of her immense success, Rodrigues joined Hyundai Motor India for their noble #TheDriveWithin campaign, thanks to which we got a chance to talk to the cricketer herself about the secret behind her success.

Jemimah Rodrigues loves her job as a cricketer but is certain about not wanting to be defined by it. At an age when many of us are still figuring out whether to put the fork into the microwave or not, Rodrigues can already see through the perils of building an identity solely on the work one does for a living.  

 

She dons many hats, and does a neat job at them— a young and dashing batter for her team, an elevating presence around her teammates, an entertaining guitarist, and a worthy anchor.  

 

Rodrigues also holds an innate ability to evoke the deepest insecurities of internet trolls— the fear that somewhere, someone is having fun. It’s always difficult to wade through a swarm of abuses and insensitive remarks when a player fails. In the case of Rodrigues, the trolling, when she fails, has been severe. But, she has now learnt the art of dealing with them. Truly, ignorance is key (and bliss), and the young sporting star swears by it.  

 

What’s interesting to note is that while a great day on the field surely brings her utmost joy, a not-so-great day doesn’t exactly crush her lively spirit, as it does to many other professionals. 

 

She has other things to look forward to— jamming to Bollywood tunes, making videos, or just talking to the people, her family and close friends whose attitude towards her doesn’t change, whether she scores a century or gets out for nothing. While a bad day or match can be daunting, Rodrigues knows the secret to navigate life and work, and most definitely the curveballs that often get thrown our way.  

 

That said, beneath the carapace of a jovial and outgoing personality exists a woman whose wisdom belies her age, a believer who knows that she has the unflinching support of Jesus, and he will never forsake her, no matter how hard the going gets. In a conversation with Man’s World India, Rodrigues spills beans on her recent match-winning knock against Pakistan in the World Cup, dealing with trolls, undying love for Bollywood, and everything in between.  

 

It was Hyundai Motor India that roped her as the face of their brand last year, and now she is already sponsoring close to a dozen of brands.  

 

 

Let’s begin with your half-century vs Pakistan. We have heard cricketers talking about the intense pressure of Indo-Pak rivalry. How did you take it personally? 

 

It was our first game of the T20I World Cup— India vs Pakistan. It couldn’t get better than that, it couldn’t get bigger than that. This is the game where we know the entire nation is watching, and cheering for us. It’s an entirely different emotion to play versus Pakistan and we talked about this in the dressing room and accepted that it’s a very high-pressure game. We just needed to keep things simple and follow the process. These things were running through my mind when we were chasing, and I knew I had to build a partnership with whoever was on the crease with me. I kept smaller targets like we need to score these many runs in the next five overs. It was a slow, turning track and the Pakistani bowlers, especially the spinners, were actually bowling well. We played sensibly against the spinners but attacked against the pacers. This innings will always be the most special for me because before that I was not getting the runs, and winning it for your country when it mattered the most, I think there’s no better feeling than that. 

 

The way you marshalled the chase was simply amazing. What was going in your mind especially after Harmanpreet Kaur got out? After her dismissal, India still needed 57 off 39 deliveries. One more wicket might have entirely swung the balance. What did you tell yourself then? 

 

Harry [Harmanpreet Kaur] and I were going again with a good partnership. Once she got out, there was a lot of pressure because Richa and I were the only two batters. We had the batters following us but we knew as long as we are there we can take responsibility. I knew I had to bat till the end and take my team through because it was difficult for a new batter to come in and play. But Richa came in and hit those boundaries which eased my pressure. Getting those quick-fire runs just changed the momentum of the game, and I think this helped us to win the game. We were batting well, we were set on the crease, and I told Richa, that we need to finish the game.  

 

There is a lot of interest in women’s cricket now. And given the additional momentum provided by WPL, it seems to be gaining popularity among the masses. How do you think this ecosystem can be nourished better for the next generation of women cricketers? 

 

I am excited to see women’s cricket in our country growing in an unprecedented way. Pay parity and an ever-increasing number of sponsors mean we have an attentive and invested audience out there. Five of the best women cricketers in the nation — Smriti Mandhana, Yastika Bhatia, Renuka Singh, Shefali Verma, and I — are now associated with Hyundai Motor India for the second edition of #TheDriveWithin. We feel empowered to be a part of this thoughtful campaign aimed at transforming the face of women’s cricket and cricketers. We are all set to make our country proud on the global stage. 

 

Do you think playing lots of franchise cricket in the last couple of years helped you in terms of innings construction and execution? 

 

Definitely. I have played the Hundred and the WBBL, and it has helped me, as you get quality games over there and you play against the best in the world. There’s no better teacher than experience. So, I think the more you play the better you get. And when you play against the best bowlers in all conditions, time and time again, I think the confidence level goes to a whole new level when you come back and play for India. In franchise cricket, I have won the game single-handedly, and I have scored against all attacks in all conditions. I know if I can do it there, it’s just a matter of time before it happens again for India.  

 

Everyone knows you love playing across the line. You also play a lot of lofted drives. Which is your favourite stroke? And One stroke from other players you would love to incorporate into your game? 

 

My favourite shot is cover drive. I think that’s the first shot I learn to play, so I’ll go with a cover drive. And I will love to learn the reverse sweep, because that’s the one shot that will add a lot to my game as a batter. 

 

Cricket is not the only thing you do. You wear many hats, from hosting chat shows to playing hockey, and your musical talent is well known. As a cricketer, how do you manage to juggle all these things? 

 

I am someone who loves exploring, loves trying out stuff, and enjoy doing what I do. Yes, I love playing cricket, that is my passion, but at the same time, I play music, host interviews and shows, love dancing, and make videos and stuff. It has come naturally to me, and that is why I do it. I work hard to balance everything out. 

 

You made your state debut in hockey before you did so in cricket. When did you exactly decide to focus solely on cricket? And what prompted you to choose cricket over hockey? 

 

I still remember when I was around 12 and had played hockey before playing cricket for my state, but both of them were clashing. So, one day my dad called me and asked me to choose either cricket or hockey. He said it’s going to be your decision completely, and we will back you with everything. Just imagine an 11 and half-year-old girl being asked to make a decision that is going to set things up for her life. I went ahead with cricket because I had reached a higher level in this sport than hockey back then.  

 

Tell us about the benefits of cultivating multiple hobbies. How has it helped you as a cricketer, especially when you had a bad day or you are going through a bad phase? Cricket at such times can seem a lonely pursuit. How do you cope with such emotions? 

 

It’s good to have a balance in your life. Cricket is something I do. Don’t get me wrong. I love cricket and can do anything for my country when I’m out there playing. But then I have to keep reminding myself it’s just a part of my life, not my life. I have many more things like my relationships, my family, and the people who love me. I also love playing the guitar and I am a very spiritual person. When I’m going through a low phase, it’s the support of my family and close ones who love me, whether I score zero or a hundred, that has helped me get through. Reading the Bible and getting to know Jesus has also kept me going. I know he has a plan and purpose for me, and he will never forsake me, and this gives me hope for the future. 

 

Everyone loves your witty social media presence. But sometimes when you fail in a big match, social media can get a very toxic place. There’s a tendency among people to go overboard and start dropping negative comments on your posts or tweets. How do you deal with that? 

 

The thing about social media is that everyone has their opinion, which is good, I respect that. But you should understand even the person who’s playing the sport is also a human. Things hurt. They [sportspersons] also go through bad times. They are putting in the hard work, doing whatever they can, and sometimes the performance doesn’t come. So, they’re also going through a very, very challenging time. It’s very tough for me. Learning how to ignore these comments and keep playing isn’t something that came easy to me. One thing I do is when I’m on the tour, I just uninstall my Instagram and Twitter and focus on the game. It’s better to avoid these comments. I have also realized that they are not in my shoes. They haven’t sweated the tears I sweat. They haven’t put in the hard work so they don’t know what I’ve been through and what I’ve done. Their opinion is nice but not necessary. I just think about people who matter and their opinion, and this makes it a little easier to ignore those comments. 

 

If not a sportsperson, what would have you been? 

 

Then I would be a musician, I guess. Or a host or an anchor.  

 

Who are your favourite musicians? Have you ever considered a career in music? 

 

Coldplay is my favourite band, and Jubin Nautiyal is my favourite singer. I also love Bollywood romantic songs, those are my go-to songs. Music is my favourite, especially live music, but I have never thought about it as a career. 

 

How do you feel about getting acquired by Delhi Capitals? Your first choice must have been Mumbai Indians? 

 

Growing up, I have always supported Mumbai Indians. So, I always thought that if I ever play the Women’s Premier League, as it is called now, it will be for Mumbai Indians. But honestly, I was really not picky about which team should I be a part of, because I just wanted to play. I have played the overseas leagues but I was always waiting to play in our own league. I am actually grateful that Delhi Capitals picked me and I am looking forward to starting the journey with them.

 

 

 

Photographer: Rohit Gupta @rohitguptaphotography
Art Director: Tanvi Shah @tanvi_joel
Fashion Editor : Neelangana Vasudeva @neelangana
Brand Director: Manoj Sharma https://www.instagram.com/manojsharma._/
Art Assistant : Siddhi Chavan @randomwonton

 

SUV: The all-new Hyundai TUCSON @hyundaiindia

 

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