Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay - South Africa star Jacques Rudolph slams double on Test debut
April 26, 2003 - Jacques Rudolph was earmarked for greatness from quite early on. The sheer load of his domestic runs forecasted the sparkling success that the Transvaal-born was destined for. Although the left-hander proved those convictions right on debut, he failed to realise his full potential in international cricket.
At just 21, Jacobus Andries Rudolph must have been over the moon when he would have got the news of his selection for the third Test match between India and South Africa at the SuperSport Park, Centurion in 2001. But, the circumstances of the match turned out to be extraordinary.
After the last Test, match referee Mike Denness had banned Sachin Tendulkar for one match, suspended for a year, after visuals of him scratching the seam surfaced, which unsurprisingly led to a furore. Skipper Sourav Ganguly was to be given a similar suspended punishment for not controlling his team's behaviour.
Virender Sehwag was to be banned from the Centurion for claiming a catch off Jacques Kallis that had bounced. Batsman Shiv Sunder Das, wicketkeeper Deep Dasgupta and spinner Harbhajan Singh were to be given suspended one-Test bans for excessive appealing. Each of them were also fined 75% of their match fees.
With six Indian players suspended, the BCCI demanded and succeeded in the third Test being considered a First-Class game and not an international one. Rudolph's first match against an international team thus proved to be bizarre. He had a taste of it, but with the match stripped of its international status, he was yet to make his official debut.
Next year, in 2002, the batsman was selected to play the New Year's Test in Australia in January, but it was vetoed by United Cricket Board president Percy Sonn who demanded that Justin Ontong, a player of colour, must debut instead. Again, Rudolph just missed his Test cap.
The incident understandably affected the young batsman: “It was not a great experience, but you learn from things like this and they build your character. Past incidents had taught me that international cricket is harsh and patience is a useful bedfellow. I have learned that you have got to be more patient, and that shot selection needs to be much better at this level. I am a great believer in the power of the mind. Even if you give your best, you can always do better,” Rudolph later told Wisden Cricket Asia.
The moment finally came in 2003 against Bangladesh and the batsman made full use of the elusive opportunity he had been waiting for years. His innings of 222 in Chittagong was one of class and composure. With nimble feet movement and sumptuous cover drives, Rudolph had a record-breaking stand of 429 with Boeta Dippenaar for the third wicket.
Unfortunately for him, that remained the peak of his international career that lasted a decade but was far too inconsistent for a player of Rudolph's caliber.
In the following South Africa tour of England in 2003, Rudolph could only contribute 132 runs at an average of 14.67 in the five-match Test series, with 55 being his top-score.
Rudolph scored his second Test hundred against West Indies at Cape Town, scoring 101 and followed it up with a highly successful tour of New Zealand. The batsman then scored a ton against Sri Lanka and a match-saving 102 not out against Australia.
However, form deserted him and after the Sri Lankan series of 2006, Rudolph was dropped from the South African Test team. He went on to have a great run in County cricket as a Kolpak player and scored 5,429 First-class runs at 52.20 for Yorkshire, apart from representing Surrey in a few matches.
Yorkshire released Rudolph in the early part of 2011 as he staked claim for a place in the South African team again. His second wind was not successful, apart from an unbeaten 105 he scored at Dunedin.
Rudolph made a place among the well-regarded names in domestic cricket. Although, he failed to realise his full potential in international cricket, the South African had a flourishing First-Class career for Yorkshire and Titans.
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