Tournament’s leading run-scorer credits ignoring criticism for her upturn in form
India and Northern Superchargers batter Jemimah Rodrigues says she handled criticism by “ignoring it” as she overcame a few “tough months” in international cricket this year to emerge as the Hundred’s leading scorer after nearly 80% of the tournament’s league matches had been played.
Rodrigues started the tournament with a scintillating and unbeaten 92 off 43 balls, studded with 17 fours and a six, to script a dramatic come-from-behind win for her team, and followed it with two more half-centuries – 60 off 41 and 57 off 44 – to accumulate 241 runs in five innings, averaging 60.25 and striking at 154.48.
This purple patch came after Rodrigues had been dropped from India’s T20I side in England following her single-digit scores in the two ODIs she played before that.
“For me the best way to handle criticism is to ignore it, not even go online or read stuff because it’s difficult when you are doing your best and working hard, nobody knows what you’ve gone through, the tears, the heartbreaks, the sweat you’ve put out to be where you are,” Rodrigues said while commentating on Sky Sports on Tuesday. “And someone sitting miles away posting stuff on social media…it’s tough, and the way I handled this time to stay away from it as far as possible so I can focus on my game and be in the right head space.”
Rodrigues, 20, had been one of the most promising Indian talents after making her international debut in 2018 but found herself in a rut in 2021 when cricket finally resumed for India after a year-long hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In the ODIs against South Africa at home, she managed scores of 1, 9 and 0 before scoring 30 and 16 in the T20Is. In England a few months later, she played only the second and third ODIs and laboured to 8 off 15 and 4 off 21 before being benched for the T20I series. She was part of the Test squad too but missed out on a debut even as five of her team-mates were handed their maiden Test caps in Bristol.
Coming into the Hundred, she was averaging only 9.71 across seven international innings this year with a tally of 68 runs and an unimpressive strike rate of 61.26.
“It’s been a rollercoaster ride for me, I’ve had ups and downs,” Rodrigues said of coping with the pressures of being an India player. “That’s what cricket is all about, it teaches you so much, changes you personally not just as a player, as a human being.
“I’m still learning how to find that balance because it’s not easy. The last few months were pretty tough but it’s good to be back and somewhere it’s important to find that balance in cricket.”
Rodrigues further said the one-year gap she got after the 2020 T20 World Cup final against Australia also helped her “get back to basics”.
“It was very difficult [to not play for so long] and sometimes it was annoying because we’re so used to living off our suitcases, travelling, going around the world and playing cricket,” she said. “The first two months were good because we needed a break and got a lot of time to spend with our family but after that my family was also fed up asking, ‘when is Jemimah going (laughs)?’ OK, they didn’t say that.
“We couldn’t wait [to play]. And after that we watched a few matches, like the England and Australia women’s teams were playing and we were like, ‘when will we get to play?’ because there were a lot of [Covid-19] cases in India so it was very tough for us to practice, to get a ground. I used to practice in my building in a small lane, with a plastic ball so that the cars wouldn’t break. So it was tough times and it taught me a lot and helped me get back to my basics.”
With the men’s IPL set to resume in the UAE next month, Rodrigues also hoped for the return of the Women’s T20 Challenge too, which is usually played around the playoffs stage.
“It’s high time we start the women’s IPL (Women’s T20 Challenge),” she said. “We all are very excited for it and the BCCI is doing a lot to get it started. Hopefully this time it starts soon because it’s only going to boost women’s cricket in India, and you never know you’ll get the likes of Shafali Verma and Richa Ghosh, all these players coming out. Like Shafali made her [India] debut after playing the Women’s T20 challenge. So hopefully we’ll have the Women’s T20 Challenge soon.”
India have finished runners-up twice in the last three women’s global tournaments – the 2020 T20 World Cup and the 2017 ODI World Cup – and Rodrigues said it was the 50-over tournament in 2017 that made a “drastic change in women’s cricket in India”.
“Things have changed a lot. After the 2017 World Cup, I personally saw a drastic change in women’s cricket in India. I used to go to a ground and there were 200 boys and I was the only girl. But now when I go there, there’s a special net only for girls right where I practice. That’s one of the most pleasing sights for me, that young girls taking up sport and parents coming up and telling ‘mujhe meri beti ko India khilana hai (I want my daughter to play for India).’ Things have changed a lot.”
Vishal Dikshit is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo