Jacques Rudolph, the South Africa batsman, is "very ready" for a second stint in international cricket. Rudolph, who has played 35 Tests and 45 ODIs for South Africa, has completed his first season of domestic cricket since returning to the country from the United Kingdom, with great success.
Rudolph, 29, topped the run charts in the SuperSport Series, was the Titans' second highest run-scorer in the MTN40 and their leading run getter in the Pro20. He also captained the franchise and although they were not able to secure any silverware, he was praised for his mature leadership. He appears a changed man to the fidgety one who left the country four seasons ago, when he seemed bereft of confidence and plagued by insecurity.
"Looking back over the last nine or 10 years, I've learnt a lot," Rudolph told ESPNcricinfo. "There were a lot of character building things that happened in my career and I'm in a good space at the moment."
Rudolph last represented South Africa in 2006, playing his last ODI in February against Australia and his last Test in August against Sri Lanka. His career, which started off promisingly in both formats, hit stumbling blocks that quickly became insurmountable boulders. He seemed to have given up on international cricket when he signed for Yorkshire and for four years, Rudolph was just another talent who opted out of South African cricket. His showing with the bat did not go unnoticed though and, after a season at the Eagles as their overseas player, was welcomed back to the Titans, where he started his cricket.
He said the county experience was well timed because it happened "mid-career" and it mellowed him, gave him perspective and helped him develop as a cricketer. "I'm far more relaxed now as a cricketer than I was before I played county cricket," Rudolph said. It's an attitude of being laidback but precise and Rudolph applied it in his playing and in his captaincy. "That's my philosophy with the leadership at the Titans this season. Don't stress too much, because that rubs off on the players."
With South African cricket once again coming under fire for its inability to deal with pressure, especially after the quarter-final exit in the World Cup, Rudolph's new-found calm would be welcomed in the national set-up.
Unlike some of his counterparts he did not flinch when he said, "We do carry this tag of chokers," when assessing what went wrong at the ICC event. "Some people think it's fair, others think it's unfair. I think, to a degree, that it's unfair. But, in pressure situations, we just haven't been able to go through."
Rudolph has had to deal with pressure in varying degrees, from the political to the cricketing, in his career and now believes he can bring that experience to the highest level again. "I have that ability and confidence secured," he said.
The talk has gone as far as to suggest that Rudolph may become the future captain of the national side, but he isn't thinking that far yet. "My first priority is to try and get back into the team and to establish myself in all three forms of the game."