Covid made me realise life’s more than just cricket: Jemimah

The Covid-19-induced break served as a ‘blessing in disguise’ for me as it helped overcome the heart-wrenching defeat that India suffered in the women’s T20 World Cup final against Australia in March, India’s top-order batswoman Jemimah Rodrigues has revealed.

On March 8, hosts Australia shattered India’s dream of winning their maiden World Cup in front of a record crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. That match turned out to be the last women’s international this year.

“It’s never easy coming back after the World Cup. We were in Australia for more than a month and a half. Also, losing the World Cup was also not easy, both mentally and emotionally,” Jemimah, 20, told IANS in an exclusive interview.

“You need some time to recover and get back into the groove. So, the lockdown has been a blessing in disguise to get back to that emotional space that we normally like to be in. However, the break has been there for too long. We can’t just wait to get back on to the field and play cricket,” she said.

In the last edition of the women’s T20 World Cup, Australia scripted their fifth triumph, defeating the Harmanpreet Kaur-led young Indian team by 85 runs in the final. And Jemimah feels it was the lack of execution that led to the team’s defeat.

“It was the execution of the plan which according to me led to our defeat. Australia had a plan, they stuck to it, and executed it well. We also had a plan, but the execution couldn’t come from our side. So, I guess we lacked on the execution part.”

The young player from Mumbai revealed the biggest lessons she has learned in the past six months, during the Covid-induced lockdown. “I realised how blessed we are. We travel to places and are playing cricket. But all of a sudden, everything came to a halt and I was able to spend some time with myself and with my family,” she said.

“I realised life is more than just cricket. Cricket is a great sport and I love playing it and once I get back to the field, I will surely give my 100 per cent. But cricket is just a part of my life. There are many more things in my life such as family, friends which are equally important,” she emphasised.

“During the lockdown I realised so many people are struggling to get their basic needs fulfilled. However, I was blessed to have a house, a family to be my side to take care of me, had food to eat, and water to drink — small-small things that we often take for granted.”

After the pandemic impacted the entire world since early this year, the women’s World Cup, which was scheduled to be played in February next year in New Zealand, has been postponed until 2022. And Jemimah believes the postponement has allowed the team to prepare better for the prestigious tournament.

“We would have loved to play the World Cup in 2021. But, I guess the postponement has allowed the team to prepare in a better way as we have not played any cricket since the T20 World Cup,” she pointed out.

“We have not practised together as a team. So, if the World Cup would have happened next year, we wouldn’t have that much time to prepare. But now, with the postponement, I guess our team will get more time to play together, practise together, and get back the momentum required to go into a tournament like World Cup.”

The next 50-overs women’s World Cup will be the last for veterans Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami. And Jemimah feels it would be a fitting tribute if the team can win the trophy for the two veterans who have contributed a lot towards Indian cricket.

“We are enjoying the fruits of what Mithi di and Jhulan di did for Indian cricket. So, definitely it will serve as a motivation,” she said.

Indian women players would be seen next in action during the women’s T20 Challenge in November in the United Arab Emirates, sometime during the IPL, though the dates haven’t been announced. And Jemimah is excited to go and smash the bowlers to all parts of the ground.

“As long as I am getting to play cricket, I am okay with it, whether is it’s Big Bash or the women’s T20 Challenge. I believe the BCCI has been putting in a lot of effort to make the women’s T20 challenge take place in the UAE. So, we all are very excited and can’t just wait to enter the field,” she said.

Jemimah, who has played 16 ODIs and 44 T20Is, also admitted that she felt the pressure of having shot to fame in just a short span of her association with the national team.

“There was a time initially when I did feel the pressure after being in the limelight. However, this has been a journey for me to learn and how to not allow these kinds of pressures to affect my game. It happens with every player,” she said.

When asked if she sees herself as a future Indian skipper, Jemimah candidly said: “I love captaining the team and I enjoy that pressure of leading the side. I have led my state team [Mumbai] since the age of 17. So, I enjoy that role. However, I will not do something extraordinary to become a captain. I will go with the flow and I suppose, if it has to happen, it will happen.”