Boeta Dippenaar, the former South Africa batsman, thinks Jacques Rudolph can become "the Michael Hussey of South African cricket," after playing against him on the weekend. Dippenaar, who last played for South Africa in 2007, still turns out for the Knights franchise and was in the field for both of Rudolph's brisk half-centuries for the Titans in their SuperSport Series opener.
"He looked like a batsman that is worlds apart from the rest and that includes some national players," Dippenaar said. "The Jacques Rudolph that I played with [for South Africa] and the Jacques Rudolph that I saw last weekend are two very different players." Rudolph and Dippenaar played 13 Tests together and shared in a 429-run third wicket partnership against Bangladesh in 2003. Both their international careers simmered without ever exploding and although Dippenaar, at 34-years-old, is unlikely to stake a claim for a national place again, he believes Rudolph will.
Rudolph returned to South Africa last year, after spending three years with Yorkshire in England. He topped the SuperSport Series batting charts in his first season back for the Titans. His time in county cricket appeared to have revolutionised his game and Dippenaar said the difference was noticeable. "I sense that Jacques knows his game inside out. He plays with lots of confidence, he is so calculated, there are no risks and he takes the game to the bowlers in a very clinical way."
Although Rudolph could not convert either of his half-centuries into hundreds in the last match he played, he was pleased with the way he performed on a challenging Centurion pitch. "It was the kind of wicket where I felt I had to play attacking cricket and it worked for me until I got out," Rudolph said. "The two months I spent back in Yorkshire this winter was very good for me, it was the right move to have a bit of a pre-season."
Rudolph has been putting pressure on Alviro Petersen for a slot as opener in the South Africa Test side. Petersen started the domestic season with 186 and 64 for the Lions, but Dippenaar still sees room for Rudolph in the Test team. With AB de Villiers' finger injury, Dippenaar feels Rudolph could even be moved down the order to slot in at No.5 and prove himself. "I will bat anywhere from one to six," Rudolph said. "I just want a foot in the door again."
Dippenaar has some insights into what the coaching staff may be thinking, having served on the six-man panel that interviewed applicants earlier this year. Gary Kirsten was given the job in June and chose Russell Domingo and Allan Donald as his assistant and bowling coach respectively.
According to Dippenaar, the selectors would do well to include Ryan McLaren in the Test XI. McLaren had a Man-of-the-Match performance with a century and four wickets for the Knights. Dippenaar said he would be an ideal No. 8, would lengthen the batting line-up and be the third seamer, a role that has been occupied by Lonwabo Tsotsobe. Dippenaar thinks McLaren's all-round abilities will be better for the balance of the side. "His seam bowling is very accurate and he reminds me a bit of the great Glen McGrath of Australia."
Dippenaar is also in favour of JP Duminy at No. 6 instead of Ashwell Prince. "Not that Ashwell has done anything wrong. But Duminy will be able to bowl as well and that would give South Africa three seamers, a legspinner [in Imran Tahir] and an offspinner. And Duminy can do the job of containing as well."
Hashim Amla, who scored the third double-hundred of his career three days ago, also gave Dippenaar reason to be cheerful. "He is one of those players that never gets tired of batting. I am always very nervous of players like that, particularly when you play against them, because if you don't get them out quickly, you will be spending a long time fielding."