Jemimah Rodrigues - a new star in the making
Seventeen-year-old Jemimah Rodrigues, the Mumbai U-19 captain, smashed an unbeaten 202 in the league-phase Inter-State women's Under-19 one-day tournament on Sunday. In doing so, she became only the second player - after Maharashtra and India opener Smriti Mandhana - to notch up a double-hundred in an Under-19 fixture.
While Rodrigues' 163-ball blitz against Saurashtra at the Aurangabad District Cricket Association Ground steered her side to a 285-run victory on Sunday, her 148-ball 178 in Mumbai's tournament-opener on earlier in the week handed Gujarat a 262-run drubbing at the same venue.
Although Saurashtra, much like Gujarat, comprise one of the weakest attack of the five teams in the West Zone, Rodrigues, Mumbai's opener, weathered an opening burst of short-ball bowling from the opposition captain Tanya Rao. Rodrigues negated the offensive with well-calculated pulls or by taking evasive action. Having set herself up, she plundered runs down the ground on her way to a 300-run second-wicket stand with Sejal Raut.
"More than anything, I am happy that I got with my mom and dad around. But there's more to be done in the crunch games," Rodrigues told ESPNcricinfo. Her parents Ivan and Lavita often travel to watch her play. Another man, who would've been proud of the knock, is Tushar Arothe, the India women head coach, who was present at the venue.
Rodrigues dabbled in football and basketball at school. She is also a national-level hockey player. Playing multiple sports have required her to be agile and supremely fit, a factor that has been key to her heavy run-scoring ways in difficult conditions.
Her fitness has aided her running between the wickets and the ability to sustain herself through a long innings. It complements her self-assured approach to the new ball and her natural ability to time the ball. "I see my game suited to that of an opener in whichever team I play for," she said. "I plan out my innings in terms of boundaries. So if I hit 10 of them in say 30-40 balls, I know I've got my fifty, and that way, a hundred too."
Rodrigues made her U-19 debut at the age of 12-and-a-half during the 2012-13 season. Two years later, she broke into the Mumbai senior team. Now, she's the vice-captain in both the one-day and T20 formats. The 2016-17 zonals, she recounts, was an "eye-opener of sorts", for the importance of improving her fitness hit her hard and prompted an immediate enrollment at the gym.
"I realised the difference between the seniors' fitness and mine. If I have to be in the Indian team, nobody's going to see if I'm 17 or 25. It's only my performance that will speak for me, so my fitness has to be at par with the best."
If facing "experienced bowlers" at the NCA camp in October - for players on the selectors' radar for the India A series - was a "huge confidence-booster", Rodrigues said her interactions with Arothe were equally enriching. Arothe assisted her in "making a few minute but important technical changes" to her grip and backlift.
And now, after clobbering the double-ton under Arothe's watch, it may not be surprising if she gets to hone her skills under his tutelage, during the upcoming India A series later this month.
Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo