It is 6am and Jemimah has put on her beloved Pegasus shoes to go for a run. “I am ready to go,” she announces. “Once I put on my shoes, I’m there.” “There” is the training pitch and we follow the athlete on her morning run.
Amidst her interval workout, as we chat to her about her journey from a very young age to being an international cricketer, Jemimah draws us a picture of her 11-year-old self with a tiny tear in her eye when she was asked by her dad and coach to choose between cricket and hockey as her career. “I loved and excelled at both,” says Jemimah who ultimately settled for cricket and has made India proud on international circuits.
Since then, Jemi, as she is popularly known, hasn’t looked back. She shares with us the lessons she has learned to get where she is by prioritising progress over perfection, the importance of a coach and the legacy she wants to leave behind for other female athletes.
ELLE: What is your training routine and how does it help you in your performance?
Jemimah Rodrigues (JR): As a cricketer, it’s crucial for me to be consistent in everything I do for my performance. It’s all about sleeping on time, waking up and making it to practice every day. It gets monotonous on some days, but you can see the results when you push through that. When you look back after a few months, you can feel the improvement in your performance and find yourself achieving all of the goals you’ve set. It’s all about taking small steps to improve your performance.
ELLE: How do you train for agility and speed to play for cricket?
JR: In cricket, agility is important and running is what helps me incorporate that into my sport. I do a lot of short-distance runs that warm me up, and to help me with those, I have a very special training buddy – my Nike Pegasus, which has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Right from when I began training, to now with the revamped Pegasus 40—I’ve owned almost every version of them. Not only can I run effortlessly in them, but also train in them.
ELLE: Training for any kind of sport is arduous. How do you motivate yourself to be better at the game every single day?
JR: Yes, training can be extremely tiring on a lot of days. But I’ve learned with time that having a fixed goal is something that keeps you motivated throughout. Each time you play the sport, you want to do your best to improve your skills. Having a goal has pushed me to be better. Having a good coach is even more important.
ELLE: Your coach is your dad; tell us how he has helped you be a better athlete?
JR: It was my dad who encouraged me to play a sport that is beyond gender. It was he who believed in me and saw the best in me which made me believe in myself, in my ability as an athlete. A coach plays a huge role in building up an athlete. They lift you up and teach you how to bounce back from setbacks. I owe it all to my coach, my dad.
ELLE: How do you train for international championships, both mentally and physically?
JR: Consistency is at the root of everything. I’ve always pushed myself to be regular with my workouts and training. But, sometimes that can be a little overwhelming mentally, so I try to ground myself in spirituality and meditation. It always pacifies my nerves before a big game.
ELLE: Speaking of big games, they bring in excitement and nervousness. How do you deal with pressure and criticism?
JR: Pressure at times, is indescribable. There are numerous people watching and setting their expectations on you. But if you fixate on that, you tend to feel the pressure more than ever. What I try to do is focus on what I can do. For instance, on match days, I take a look at the scoreboard and see what the team requires. Once you shift your focus from criticism and pressure to what you can do, you give your best. The crowd remembers how well you played.
ELLE: How important is rest and recovery?
JR: A lot of us often underestimate the importance of a rest day. It’s imperative for us to remember that our body isn’t a machine. You can put in all the hard work and effort, but if you don’t allow your body to rest, it’s all in vain. Your muscles are constantly training and working hard, so they need to recover from the stress. I give myself a break by spending some quality time with my family and cousins. It’s an instant stress buster.
ELLE: General wellness is being discussed now more than ever. What is that one piece of advice you swear by to manage your well-being?
R: It genuinely warms me so much to see that not just youngsters, but everybody else is talking about wellness and its importance. I believe it’s important for everyone, especially athletes, to have someone to fall back on. Hiding emotions has never done anyone any good. If you feel things are escalating and getting out of hand, it is important to talk to someone or seek professional help.
ELLE: How do you aim to be a role model for women who wish to take up cricket; a sport that has always been male-dominated?
JR: Growing up, I used to play cricket with my brothers and male friends. I remember, I used to be the only girl amongst 400 boys. Now I get the opportunity to represent India internationally; it is extremely surreal and gratifying. Once when I was practising at the nets, a parent came up to me and told me that they wanted their daughter to play cricket like I do, a gesture that motivates me even today.
ELLE: What aspirations do you have for women’s sports in India?
JR: The women who played before us have played a huge part in inspiring me to do better each day. These women have kept the sport alive, and we’re reaping the fruits of their hard work. So, that’s all I would like to do, leave behind a legacy for younger female athletes to be a part of.
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