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Red-hot Jemimah Rodrigues resumes road to greatness without missing a beat

Coming back from injury, she lit up India's Asia Cup campaign with a career-best 76 that featured all her trademark shots

S Sudarshanan
S Sudarshanan
Jemimah Rodrigues made a match-winning 76 in India's Asia Cup opener  •  ACC

Jemimah Rodrigues made a match-winning 76 in India's Asia Cup opener  •  ACC

No time is ever good for a player to be injured. But ask any batter, and they would least want to be away from action when in good nick.
India batter Jemimah Rodrigues was in sublime touch through the domestic season, the Women's T20 Challenge, the Commonwealth Games - where she was hit on her wrist by a Shakera Selman delivery - and then in the Women's Hundred before being sidelined by a wrist injury. It forced her to miss the subsequent tour to England.
Rodrigues was at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru for rehabilitation and she couldn't touch the bat for about six weeks. It was tough for her to stay away from her favourite facet of the game. But she worked hard on her fitness and after recovering, asked for slow, low, turning pitches to bat on, anticipating the conditions she was likely to encounter in Sylhet. Back home for a two-day break before flying to Bangladesh, she headed to Navi Mumbai with her father - also her coach - for more practice on pitches that were slow and low. And it all paid off.
Returning to action in India's opening match of the Women's T20 Asia Cup, Rodrigues sent out another reminder of her ability - and hence her importance - with a career-best 76 off just 53 balls to help trounce Sri Lanka by 41 runs. Like it had done in her T20I comeback in Sri Lanka earlier this year, the effort helped her bag her third Player-of-the-Match award in the format.
Rodrigues found herself in the middle in the third over with spinners Sugandika Kumari and Oshadi Ranasinghe dishing out little to no freebies. She had to bide her time and yet not allow the bowlers to dominate. A couple of glorious cover drives off left-arm spinner, Kumari, got her going.
Rodrigues is not a power-hitter, per se. But she makes up for it with quick running and the ability to find the gaps. She used the traditional sweep as well as the slog sweep against the spin to push India ahead as the innings wore on. While the cover drive was certainly the most productive - and attractive - of the shots she played strike-rate-wise, the sweeps fetched her the most runs - 18 off 11 balls.
Between overs six and 16, Rodrigues scored 57 and only eight of the 35 deliveries she faced were dots. In that period, India managed 83. After Sri Lanka broke the Rodrigues-Harmanpreet Kaur 92-run fourth-wicket union, India only managed 35 for 4. Thanks to Rodrigues' late acceleration - she scored her last 26 runs off just 15 balls - India were able to get to 150 despite managing only 16 off the last 14 balls of the innings.
Rodrigues overcame the stifling spin-attack and the heat of Sylhet to notch up her third half-century in nine T20I innings against Sri Lanka - against whom she averages a whopping 59. "I would like to thank Mumbai, because the heat is the same," she laughed. "The wicket was a bit tricky. It was staying on the lower side and initially it was not turning but after that it started turning."
She knew she was in good touch. She was eager to play and showed her wares once she was on the field. But she also knew there are areas to improve. "I am happy it was my career-best but I could have done better by being not out because I was timing the ball well," she told the broadcaster during the innings break.
After breaking into the Indian team as a teenage prodigy in 2018, she was touted for greater things, but Rodrigues was benched through India's runners-up finish in the Asia Cup that year. Her cricketing life has come a full circle with the start of the current iteration and this run could well be her springboard for greater success.

S Sudarshanan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo