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The curious case of Jemimah Rodrigues in India's batting conundrum

Last updated on 06 Oct 2021 | 11:44 PM
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The curious case of Jemimah Rodrigues in India's batting conundrum

With the emergence of Yastika Bhatia and Richa Ghosh in the white-ball format, where does Rodrigues fit into India's scheme of things?

Over the years, in the glorious history of Indian cricket, Mumbai has been a pioneer in producing quality batters that have taken the world of cricket by storm with their scintillating performances donning the national colours. 

On 5th November 2017, away from the glaring eyes of the media, the young 17-year old plying her trade for Mumbai grabbed eyeballs with her record-breaking performance at the national level. In a city known for its historical monuments and ancient culture, Jemimah Rodrigues etched her name in the record books as she smashed an unbeaten 202 against Saurashtra in an Under-19 domestic tournament at Aurangabad. 

While the double hundred caught all the attention, not many people know, the child prodigy scored a destructive 178 earlier in the league match against Gujarat. After amassing thousands of runs in the domestic circuit and undergoing gruelling hours of sessions in the scorching heat, Rodrigues finally reaped massive dividends as she was drafted into the Indian squad for the series against South Africa from home. 

A dream debut

Four months after leading Mumbai to the summit clash of the tournament, she donned the national colours in the shortest format of the game, albeit in a different role. While she opened the innings for her stateside, she was assigned the mantle of batting at number four and providing the side with much-needed impetus in the back end of the innings. 

In pursuit of 165, the Women in Blue were tottering at 47 for the loss of two wickets when Rodrigues walked in to take centre stage. A boundary off the second ball followed by a six, the teenager smashed Ayabonga Khaka for 14 runs in her first over. Displaying an array of strokes all around the ground, she laid a solid foundation for the run chase with a 27-ball 37 studded with four boundaries and one massive six. 

A couple of matches later, she anchored the innings with a quick-fire 44 off 34 deliveries at the top of the order to propel the Indian side to 166 runs in the first innings. While her batting and steady rise at the international arena grabbed all the attention in the series, she showcased brilliance in the field to hold onto a stunner at the deep mid-wicket boundary and get appreciation from her idol Sachin Tendulkar. 

Analysing the Rodrigues international careerDespite making an impressive start to her international career, the teenager has been unable to cement her place in the playing XI of the side in the white-ball format. With an aim to allow a youngster an opportunity in the team, Mithali Raj dropped a position down from her designated number three, post the 2017 Women's World Cup. 

In comparison to other players, the Mumbai batter was the most suitable candidate for the number three spot, given her credentials and record in T20I. However, in the 21 ODI matches, she scored 394 runs at an average of 19.70 and struggled to notch up consistent performances since making her debut against Australia in 2018. 

While her performances in the shortest format of the game made the noises for the right reasons, her below-par performance in the 50-over format was an area of concern for the team management. 

After the heroics of the Indian team in the summit clash of the World T20 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the sporting arena came to an absolute halt. In the unprecedented chaos amid the pandemic, the women's team endured a year-long break, much to the disappointment of the fans. 

The chink in her armour

The Women in Blue marked their return to international cricket in a home series against South Africa with only a handful of practice sessions under their belt. Opening the batting along with Smriti Mandhana, she scored 1,9 and 0 in the first three matches of the series before eventually losing her place in the playing XI to Priya Punia. After being dropped for the first ODI against England, her dismal run continued in the final two games as she managed to score 8 and 4 in the final two matches. 

In the past couple of years, one of the major chink in her armour was the ball that came into her. The right-handed batter in recent times has been guilty of playing across the line or is caught after getting a leading edge. 

While the bat face getting closed at the point of contact can be one of the reasons, another cause of concern will be her initial movement, which can also result in her downfall. Since her front foot is in motion while playing the shot, she does not get absolute control over her desired shot.

A minor tweak in her mindset

Despite not having enough opportunities with the bat and enduring a tough series against England and South Africa, Rodrigues underwent hours of training to set things right for the inaugural edition of The Hundred. 

Plying her trade for the Northern Supercharger, she scored a match-winning 92* to guide her team to a commanding six-wicket win over the Welsh Fire at Headingley. "It was a very good inning and a much-needed one for me personally. It's just very good being back, " she said in an interview with Cricinfo after her blistering knock. 

One of the significant changes she incorporated in The Hundred was her ability to play with a straight bat in the region from covers to mid-wicket, allowing the full face of the bat at the point of contact. In the seven league matches, she scored 249 runs at an average of 41.50 and a strike rate of 150.90 to light up the tournament with her brutal hitting. 

The road ahead

Despite her heroics in The Hundred, the right-handed batter has not featured in the playing XI of the Indian team during their tour to Australia. While she has been in sublime form in the franchise tournament, the team management opted to give Yastika Bhatia and Richa Ghosh an opportunity in the 50-over format. In the three-match series, the duo scored 102 and 73 runs respectively to showcase shades of brilliance and solve India's middle-order muddle heading into the World Cup in March 2022. 

While there is no doubt about the immense talent of the young batting sensation, the upcoming three-match series will provide the 21-year old an ideal platform to replicate the skills into notable performances and crawl her way back into the team. 

Although her performances at the international level have struggled to showcase her potential in the recent past, she will enter the format in which she has garnered immense success. 

With 976 runs in 40 innings at an average of 26.30 in the shortest format of the game, she has been a mainstay in the batting unit of the Indian side since her debut. The series Down Under will undoubtedly be crucial for her and the fortunes of the Indian side with the iconic World Cup coming up.  

Over to Gold Coast. 

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