Twice as good: Article from DNA 27th December 2014

Most school-going kids give it all to make a name in one sport. At 14, Jemimah Rodrigues is a pro at two. The Bandra girl captains the cricket and hockey teams of St Joseph’s Convent High School. Here’s more: the Std IX student is part of the Mumbai women’s cricket team as well as the Mumbai Under-17 hockey team.

Rodrigues has every reason to feel proud of her achievements. It may not be at the back of her head, but she does let out a chuckle when one reminds about her year of birth. “It comes once every thousand years. I don’t think about it much, but now that you’ve mentioned it, I do feel nice about it,” says the right-handed batswoman and forward, who will turn 15 on September 5.

“She was a premature baby. I didn’t expect to deliver her on the day that is now her birthday. In the operation room, I knew that this kid inside me would be born for greater things. That day felt right. Not many kids can do what she has been doing at 15. Maybe it had to be the year 2000 for Jemimah,” says a proud Lavita Rodrigues.

Besides cricket and hockey, Rodrigues is just like any teenager, “She loves going to school. She is good in studies. And like any other sports lover, she catches the highlights of the Australia-India Test series. People like to remind her of her age, but what they don’t know is that she doesn’t behave like every other 15-year-old. “She is very mature. She keeps her cool and knows to handle pressure. But not once will you see her behaving like she’s a part of Mumbai’s senior side. She is a people’s person,” says father Ivan Rodrigues.

As far as the previous millennium is concerned, Rodrigues values what India achieved on “25 June, 1983”. “To me, Kapil Dev leading India to the Word Cup (is a special achievement). That’s all I know. As far as today’s generation is concerned, I think there are more girls who have started playing sports. Parents have become more supportive,” says Rodrigues.

“She wouldn’t know much about our time. She doesn’t even watch many movies,” says Ivan. No prizes for guessing that her favourite movie is Chak De! India.

Rodrigues was a quick starter and an even quicker learner. By the time she was four, she had made the change from plastic to ‘season’ balls. For Ivan, who is also coach of the cricket coach at St Joesph’s, it’s all about hard work. “She was never bothered about the fact that her competitors were three-four years older than her. It only brought out the best in her. It was never easy for Jemimah. Playing with the big boys in our residential society helped her improve as a cricketer. Over time, these boys realised she was no ‘kaccha nimbu’ (newbie),” says Ivan.

“Everyone recognises me on merit and talent rather than age. A few days into the Mumbai Cricket Association camp for the senior team, I realised that you get respect no matter how old you are. I didn’t think I was too young to be there. I knew I was good enough to play for Mumbai. I want to play for India now. At cricket, at hockey,” says Jemimah, who idolises Virat Kohli.

The Mumbai call-up was her biggest achievement of the year. She vividly remembers their clash against Punjab at the Wankhede. “I had goosebumps when I entered the stadium. For the first time, I was there as a player.

Usually, I go there to watch the Mumbai Indians. But that day was different. I scored 55 runs and took one wicket. The match went right down to the wire with Punjab needing five off the last over. Unfortunately, we ended up on the losing side,” said Rodrigues.

There will come a time when she might have to choose between the two disciplines. “I don’t want to think about it right now. I just want to enjoy it all now. Thankfully, the schedules don’t clash. So it’s been a win-win situation for me.”

Kids look up to the likes of Roger Federer, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Jemimah adores Ellyse Perry, the 24-year-old Australian who represented her country at cricket and football at the age of 16. “I met her when the Australian team had come down to Mumbai. I realised that if she can play both sports so well, then why can’t I? There was my role model right in front of me,” says Rodrigues.

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