Indian batting star Jemimah Rodrigues has credited her father, and his persistence, for her success at the highest level. Since making her debut in South Africa in 2018, Jemimah has established herself as a reliable no. 3 in T20Is as well as the frontline opener in a star-studded ODI line-up.
From teaching her the basics, for a four-year-old who merely started as a token fielder during her brothers’ practice sessions to shaping her into a confident, dominating batter, Jemimah says if it wasn’t for her father’s persistence and sacrifices, she may not have made rapid strides in her short international career so far.
The sports enthusiast parents – Ivan and Lavita – encouraged their daughter to pursue sports. Not so long ago, Jemimah was in fact representing Mumbai in two sports – hockey and cricket. But when a tough call had to be made, the teenager went with cricket, albeit quitting hockey with a heavy heart.
The Rodrigues had already shifted from Bhandup to Bandra, in Mumbai, when Jemimah was barely seven in order to get their prodigious daughter more opportunities and facilities and even took a loan to buy a bowling machine. Ivan noticed the shortcomings in Jemimah’s batting – noticeably the tendency to get out to swing bowlers early on in age-group cricket – and promptly decided to invest.
The results were there to see. Jemimah grabbed the eyeballs with a record-breaking double-hundred that made her the youngest Indian to achieve the feat in 50-overs cricket, at 16. India selection followed soon after.
“When dad got the call that Jemimah has gotten selected for India, the tears just started rolling down his eyes. I still remember that moment,” Jemimah, on Spicy Pitch, recalls getting the news of India selection. “I actually wasn’t that emotional, but just seeing that, you know, the joy in my mom and dad’s eyes, the tears in their eyes, made me even more emotional. Then, even I started crying.
“Because it has been my dad’s dream to play for India. But he never got the support. To see me fulfilling his dream was the biggest joy he could have ever had. I mean, that’s the proudest a father can be, and even today, I can see it in his eyes.
“When it comes to practice, he’s still very particular, about practice. If it wasn’t for his persistence, I wouldn’t be here today. Sometimes it gets kind of annoying but I was actually having this conversation with my mom [that] if it wasn’t for my dad being after me, sitting on my head ‘come for practice, come for practice’, I wouldn’t have developed my game so much or reached where I am today so fast.”
Often spotted at the stadiums, tailing his daughter and her team, Ivan noticed Jemimah’s tendency to shed her natural game in order to blend in and reprimanded his daughter for the same. Jemimah credits that incident and her father’s intent behind it, in making her a self-confident batter at the highest level with a natural tendency to attack from the word go if need be.
“[After a Mumbai U19 practice match]… Dadda just stomped off. I felt so bad. But I also knew I’m going to get screamed at today. I went home, sat quietly. Dadda made me sit in a corner and said, ‘I don’t want you to play like that, ever again! I want you to dominate, no matter what.’
“He actually worked on my batting even more… Because I don’t know where would I be if he had not changed my mindset at that time. Now cricket has evolved so much.”
Ivan, and his wife, still tail their daughter – be it her debut in South Africa or more recently, the Women’s T20 World Cup in Australia earlier this year, now though merely as proud parents.