Australia in SA

Rudolph returns to the fold

2011-11-04 13:04
Jacques Rudolph (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - After a five-year absence from Test cricket, Jacques Rudolph will open the batting with Graeme Smith when South Africa take on Australia in the first of two Test matches at Newlands on Wednesday.

He spent his self-imposed exile wisely, racking up runs in English country cricket and regaining his passion for the game.

"It’s been a long sabbatical for me but it’s very nice to be back to get some sort of recognition," said Rudolph.

"I did make the decision in 2006/2007 (to play county cricket) and made it clear I was at the stage in my career where I needed to get my joy back for the game and playing for Yorkshire has certainly done that."

He has also been a prolific run scorer for the Titans franchise and scored over 900 runs last season and has added 592 runs, at an average of 74 with two centuries and three fifties, so far this season in the four-day format of the game.

"As you get older, you learn a lot more about your game and I think I’m in a very good space at the moment," said the 30-year-old.

His recall has been a long time coming, but Rudolph was used to waiting.

He was first selected to play for South Africa in November 2001, during India’s tour of South Africa, in what would have been the third Test match at Centurion.

The match was declared unofficial by the International Cricket Council (ICC) following an incident at the second Test in Port Elizabeth, where English match referee Mike Denness was afterwards accused of discriminating against the visitors.

Huge public protests followed in India after Denness had imposed bans on six Indian cricketers, accusing them of ball tampering and excessive appealing.

While the ICC supported Denness, the South African cricket board sided with the Indians and replaced Denness for the third Test, resulting in the ICC downgrading the match’s status.

Rudolph again came close to his first cap two months later, when he was named in the Test side to face Australia in the Sydney Test, but the United Cricket Board’s president Percy Sonn overruled the selectors and decreed that Justin Ontong play instead.

When his opportunity finally came, Rudolph scored an unbeaten 222 on debut against Bangladesh in Chittagong in April 2003 and his third-wicket partnership of 429 runs with Boeta Dippenaar is still a South African record.

He played the last of his 35 Tests in August 2006 and feeling disillusioned with the game, he took the decision to play for Yorkshire with the aim of developing himself into a more complete cricketer while, at the same time, trying to rekindle his love of the game.

"My personal motivation was to try and get my game back to the point of enjoyment and be passionate about my game again so I could enjoy the later part of my international career," Rudolph said.

During his successful five-year stint abroad, he was named Yorkshire’s Players’ Player of the Year and the fans' Player of the Year.

"The whole county experience and playing in England accounts for the fact that I am where I am today.

"I think I’m far more mature that I was a few years ago and I know my game pretty well now," he said.

"It was a nice opportunity to play county cricket. A lot of youngsters should do that, you learn a lot about your game."

Rudolph admitted his long-awaited selection had not come as a total surprise after his run spree for the Titans, but he was sorry it came at the expense of Alviro Petersen, who had also been in good form.

"Since 2010, I made it clear I badly wanted to play for the Proteas again. I believe I’ve stacked up quite a lot of runs.

"I’m 30 years old now and I am really enjoying my game and I can possibly see myself playing for another couple of years.

"It has helped me that I’ve done really well in the first three games of the season so I wouldn’t say it came as a surprise but I did feel sorry for Alviro. I thought he did fairly well so I’ve just got to grab my opportunity now."

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