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Rodrigues: 'My game is not very flashy, but I don't have to be someone else'

The lack of a power game notwithstanding, batter says she wants to play the role given to her by the team

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
Jemimah Rodrigues is a floater. She can bat at No. 5 and can most definitely do a job at No. 3. She is at that stage of her development as a player where the lack of a power game isn't playing on her mind because of the belief in her skillsets and what she offers to the team. She seems calmer, translating into better decision-making on the field, and has been going about her game with a sense of purpose.
This mindset was on display in India's must-win encounter against Barbados as Rodrigues, promoted to No. 3 in Yastika Bhatia's absence, held the batting line-up together even as the big hitters kept going hard. When they fell, Rodrigues rallied around Deepti Sharma in the lower middle order to ensure India got to 162, more than they had hoped for at one stage.
Rodrigues scored an unbeaten 46-ball 56 - her seventh T20I fifty - after it looked for a long time as if she would run out of overs, especially with Deepti hogging much of the strike towards the end. Between overs three and 15, Rodrigues hit only one boundary. Yet, she kept ticking the strike over by playing the fields expertly, apart from ensuring she ran hard to pinch runs wherever possible.
At no stage did she allow dot-ball pressure to creep up, even though India had lost three big wickets in the interim - Shafali Verma, Harmanpreet Kaur and Taniya Bhatia. Rodrigues may have had a slight role to play in Shafali's run-out, completely misjudging a second run that seemed on. However, she didn't allow that to play on her mind, even though the wicket coming at the time it did, threatened to snatch a bit of momentum from India.
"Definitely I've worked on my power game, but more than that, I've understood my game better," Rodrigues said after the game. "I'm not a power-hitter, I'm a placer. I can hit the singles and doubles well; I know how to manoeuvre the field. I think that is my strength. My game is not very flashy, but even without that, I end up with a good strike rate. That is what I realised I don't have to be someone else; I have to be Jemimah Rodrigues to score. This is what has helped me.
"Smriti had told me long back in the IPL [Women's T20 Challenge] in 2019 that you don't have to be a Harmanpreet Kaur or a Smriti Mandhana, you have to be a Jemimah Rodrigues. I think I have understood that role and it's helping me. The team has given me a role, if I can play that role, it doesn't matter how other people look at it. If the dynamics suit our team, we have Shafali, Smriti, Harman, so I just want to play the best role I want to play for the team."
Rodrigues knew she was going to bat at No. 3 after the match against Pakistan. In the first two games, she had slotted in at Nos. 4 and 5. In a way, returning to No. 3 was coming back to a familiar position where she has had much of her success as a batter.
"Ramesh [Powar] sir had told me after the last game to be prepared for No. 3," she said. "Honestly, when I was preparing, I was ready for both. Even when I was preparing in the nets, with our side-arm specialist, I was prepared for both, because you never know, the team can need me anywhere and I should be ready for that. But definitely, I love No. 3, it's my position. [I'm] glad I got to play there and contribute to the team, contribute to the plan, and it worked out well for the team."
It was only last year that Rodrigues couldn't break into the India XI and was largely deemed a one-format player, for 50 overs. Then she went away to the women's Hundred and emerged as the second-highest run-getter in the competition - 249 runs in seven innings at a strike rate of 150.90 - while opening for Northern Superchargers. The stint gave her the belief and confidence she had lacked until then. It also helped her acclimatise to the surfaces in England and fine-tune her game accordingly. Yet, game-time proved elusive when she returned.
"The best thing about the Hundred was the opportunity to get to play in English conditions, which I wouldn't have gotten normally," she said. "Not just that, taking on the world's best bowlers. Any match, even if it's a domestic game, I think when you go out there and score runs, you get confidence. And that is what happened to me. I was blessed that I got to play for the Northern Superchargers. I had a good season there, and I just wanted to continue that because the more I play, the better I do and the more I learn. I just want to apply that whenever I play for India."
Rodrigues has channelled the hurt of missing the World Cup bus in the most positive way. Without brooding over what could have been, she sought out Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant and made adjustments to her game, which she translated into runs when the matches came around. At the domestic T20 tournament earlier this year, she made 243 runs in six innings at a strike rate of 167. She hit the high notes at the Women's T20 Challenge, and in the T20Is in Sri Lanka.
That purple patch has now extended to the Commonwealth Games, which India would hope would continue as they come closer to the medal rounds and beyond.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo