jemimah rodrigues is a cricketer in the indian national women’s cricket team, and this is her story.
“i’ve always been the kind that couldn’t sit quiet growing up: i was a complete tomboy, and always up to mischief. my grandfather gave me my first bat when i was 3 years old, and i’d play cricket with my brothers on the mumbai streets near our home ever since i was 4!
it was around then that i started going for coaching with my brothers. we used to wake up at 4 am and take the mumbai local to practise — i still remember my first time, a tiny 4-year-old getting completely smashed in the men’s compartment!
i didn’t know about the existence of women’s cricket in india. my brothers were more serious — we’d go to the ground as a family, and i’d be the one who’d field for 2 hours just to get 10 mins of batting practice! but i didn’t mind — i was playing for the fun of it. it was at one of those practices that my coach told me about a woman’s selection coming up.
i changed into my cricket whites and came back, with my dad holding my kit bag. i was an 8-year-old, and everyone smirked and laughed as i entered; i was to go up against 24 and 28-year-olds. but my brother whispered this to my dad — “let jemimah bowl, then they’ll know”. i went ahead, and the second ball was a wicket! that’s how it all started.
things started getting serious when i was 11 and started playing for the state. i was the youngest in the team, and scored 80 not out in the second state match i played. i decided then that if i was going to do this, i wanted to be the best i could be. i wanted to have a presence as a sportsperson, and to have people be afraid to bowl at me.
i was never particularly muscular or tall — i was usually the tiniest in the team, and people always had a related impression of me. but the moment i’d strike, they’d be taken aback. i’d depend a lot on my technique and timing, rather than my strength. i came to define my game — the only thing that’s taken me far is trying to be the best ‘me’ i can be. it’s the best advice i’ve gotten too — be the best jemimah rodrigues you can be!
but my journey has had some downs. most recently, i was dropped from the ODI world cup. i’d never been dropped from a team, and i didn’t know how to deal with it. the world cup was a dream, and this was one of the lowest moments of my life. i didn’t know how to react, and was trying really hard to be strong, for myself and for my parents. i would laugh a little harder, and tried to move on quickly. i’d lose sleep, and the reality of not being selected kept hitting me. i’d dread going for practice, but i’d tell myself that i needed to make a comeback, i needed to practise harder and show everyone what i’m capable of. i was stressed and anxious, and all of this came to a head one day at home: i was making chai in the kitchen, and my mum looked at me and said “jem, i’m your mother. i know what you’re feeling right now.” i broke down.
i stopped trying to fake it, and started healing. i took a break for a week and came back refreshed, with a plan of action. but the two months that followed were the most challenging. they felt long, and there were days that i’d come home from practice and just cry; i wondered if i’d ever be able to make a comeback.
i started treating myself to feel better; i’d take myself out every sunday for a coffee, a cheat meal, or to go shopping. it would be a small pat on the back for a week well done. i found that rewarding myself at these intervals also gave me the strength and courage to keep going! this time changed a lot for me — i started to understand myself more, my game more, and i also accepted how it’s okay to not be okay sometimes.
i practised really hard for those 2 months and reminded myself that i played because i loved the game. i went on to have a really good domestic season, along with a great women’s T20 challenge, which gave me a big confidence boost. then came the sri lanka series, and i was overjoyed to be playing for india again, back in my jersey. i won player of the match, and was thrilled after the game. i even refused to take my jersey off for a good while after! we even went on to win silver at the commonwealth games — all of it felt worth it.
if there’s one thing my journey so far has taught me, it’s this: no matter what, with hard work and dedication, there is always something good waiting at the end of it!”