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Jemimah Rodrigues: 'I need to work a lot on my power-hitting because it's not natural to me'

The India batter looks back at her WPL experience, and talks about how she has been preparing for the upcoming busy season and the tour to Bangladesh

S Sudarshanan
S Sudarshanan
Jemimah Rodrigues took a superb diving catch to dismiss Hayley Matthews, Mumbai Indians vs Delhi Capitals, WPL 2023, Navi Mumbai, March 20, 2023

"I know I can get to the ball wherever it is because my fitness is helping me reach there"  •  BCCI

India Women have had a busy couple of years after the pandemic-enforced hiatus ended - since the start of 2021, they have played 44 T20Is, a couple of Tests, and 29 ODIs, culminating in the first ever Women's Premier League. Now after a short break, India are about to kick off another busy season with a white-ball tour to Bangladesh. Later, they will play two Tests against Australia and England in December and January at home. They began preparations with an intense month-long camp at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru with a focus on fitness. Jemimah Rodrigues, who is part of the camp, took time off to talk.
It's been over three months since the WPL ended. What have you been up to?
I'd taken a break after the WPL because we had a very long season - for two years we were on the road and playing matches. Even if they were not internationals, there were domestic games, practice and stuff. That was a good break after the T20 World Cup, WPL and everything. I went for a vacation with the family, got back, and had a month at home.
Then I worked on my fitness for a couple of weeks to get my fitness levels back up. After that, [it's been] cricket practice and training and then the one-month camp in Bengaluru.
Tell us more about the pre-season camp. What was it like?
We were having a camp after a very long time. The main purpose of the camp was to do our fitness and our fielding, because that is one area we as a team know we need to work on. We had a few benchmarks that were set. We had a test on the first two-three days of the camp, based on which players were divided into groups. Whoever passed the benchmark was in the skills-and-fitness group and whoever didn't would spend the first two weeks doing only fitness.
What was the routine like there?
We used to have alternate days of skill work and fitness work. One day would be a fitness day and one day would be a skill day, so that we could give equal importance to both. Such an arrangement helped, because otherwise what would happen is, if you tried to do both you cannot push a lot.
Say, you are doing skills. You'll think, "I have to gym in the evening so I'll take it a little easy." Or if I have gym in the morning, I'll say I'll do lighter weights in the gym so that I can give more in skills. They didn't want that to happen and had one day where we could go all-out in skills and one day we could go all-out in training and that is how the workload is balanced equally. A lot of thought was put behind it.
VVS [Laxman, NCA director of cricket] sir had a meeting with us and said that the coaches and staff began preparations for this camp a month before we were to arrive. They watched videos of every bowler and every batter. The physios and trainers had meetings and they discussed how to improve and take the level of women's cricket up.
The Athlete Monitoring System (AMS) and Injury Prevention (IP) were implemented in the camp. What effects did they have on players?
We in the Indian team have been doing it for a year now and we are very used to it. AMS has a few questions: How many hours have you slept? How sore is your body? Are you having your periods? Such information can be used to plan our day better. If you are a bit sore, they can keep your training a little less [intense] depending on the athlete. This helps the athlete be specific with what they are training for and can get the best results.
IP tests were held every morning to check if a specific muscle is tight, or how the player is feeling on the day. They used to ask us a few questions and then used to speak to the trainer and coaches to decide how to manage the workload. It's shown good results.
Let's talk specifically about you. You are one of the more agile players around. Does fitness have an effect on one's batting?
Definitely, it does! It is also a mindset thing.
When you know you have put in the hours and the effort, you feel stronger mentally too. You know you can bat for long hours. T20 is also really intense; you get more tired in T20 than a one-day game, because it is intense and quick.
Usually I field from deep midwicket [at one end] to deep midwicket [at the other] and have to run for all 20 overs because that is my specialised position. That position is my place. Sometimes it is a lot of running and a lot of balls come to me. But when I know I have prepared well in the area of my fitness too, that helps me feel even better. I know I can get to the ball wherever it is because my fitness is helping me reach there and cover that much distance. Sometimes it may look too far [on TV] but I know it is not too far because I have covered that distance a lot of times when I am training.
You definitely feel stronger, and you start seeing changes in your body. And when you go out to bat, you know the difference between what it was before and what it is after you work on your strength. The ball travels more when you work on strength - you see the ball clear the ropes, you hit the ball harder. The technique and all stay the same but it takes things to a whole new level.
Speaking of hitting the ball hard, do you practice range-hitting in the nets?
Yes, I do. I need to work a lot more on my power-hitting game because it's not natural to me; I am more of a timer. My range-hitting drills are about adding power-hitting to my timing. I have specific sessions depending on what I am working on a given day.
In the WPL, did players from different countries train on non-skill aspects differently?
Yes. Some overseas players give more importance to fitness than skills. They might even miss a skill session, but they will not miss a fitness session. In India, we focus more on our skills. Everyone is right in their own way, and we don't necessarily have to be like someone else. As long as we understand what our standards are, the benchmarks we have set, and the standards that are required to give the best to our team, we work towards it.
I've grown up loving batting. I have to bat a lot. That's me. I don't want to ever change that. Maybe someone else might not want to bat so much. For them, it is about feeling good in the nets and coming out. That differs from person to person even in fitness aspects, but it is important to realise what standard you need to be the best in India, or in the world, and to defeat the best in the world.
You have played in franchise competitions around the world, the WBBL and the Hundred. You're familiar with players from different countries coming together. But for many Indian players, it must have been a first in the WPL. What were conversations like about the WPL between Indian players?
About 80% of our conversations were about how the WPL was, and about players in different teams. You always thought a certain person would be a certain way. But when you are part of the same team, they are completely different. We have obviously seen them on the ground [as being] very aggressive, say, but when you get to know them in person, they are very different, nice and genuine people. So many conversations like that…
We definitely spoke about the fitness aspect - we have fit players in India, but it is just about what we can learn from one another. We also learn from people setting standards in India. Harry di [Harmanpreet Kaur, India captain] is one of the fittest persons I have seen - very agile, very fit, has good stamina, speed. I have shared the dressing room with her and know her ways, but imagine a domestic player, like Saika Ishaque, being around the likes of her, Nat Sciver-Brunt and others. There is always so much to learn. In that way, we had conversations about what we can learn and do better.
You have been around Harmanpreet, Smriti Mandhana and players of that calibre in the India set-up for years now. During the WPL, whose work ethics did you admire?
Because I spent time with the Delhi [Capitals] team, I'd say Meg Lanning. She is someone I really look up to. I have seen her so much in person - the way she carries the team, and her consistency with the bat and also her fitness. Since we had night games during WPL, it was 1am by the time we used to get back to the hotel from the ground on match days. On such days, my mind was very active though the body was exhausted, and I wouldn't sleep until 3am or 4am.
Once I was chatting with Meg and she said she also couldn't sleep till about 6am. But next morning I went for breakfast and learnt from one of our coaches that Meg was at the gym at 8:30am! She must have slept for just two hours. Another morning, I spotted her running at Oval Maidan with her headphones on at 6:30am! To see her that committed is very inspiring.

S Sudarshanan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo