LONDON – Former England batter Gary Ballance is poised to revive his international career with his native Zimbabwe, having signed a two-year contract after Yorkshire agreed to release him from his county deal two years early.

Ballance had not played for Yorkshire since September 2021 following allegations of racism from his former teammate Azeem Rafiq. The 33-year-old admitted calling Rafiq a “P***” in a lengthy statement released in November last year, saying he ‘deeply regrets some of the language I used in my younger years’.

He also insisted ‘no malice was intended’ by his use of the slur, claiming it was ‘a situation where best friends said offensive things to each other’. Rafiq and Ballance met in-person earlier this year, with Ballance offering an unreserved apology for his use of “unacceptable” and “racist” language.

On Thursday, Yorkshire announced that Ballance would be leaving the club after requesting his release and it has now been confirmed he will be returning to Zimbabwe. Ballance was born in Harare and even played for Zimbabwe at the Under 19s World Cup in 2006.

However, he went on to play 23 Tests and 16 ODIs for England between 2013 and 2017, scoring four international hundreds. But he is now set to return to Zimbabwe, with ZC announcing he has agreed to ‘play domestic and international cricket in and for the country of his birth’.

“I’m thrilled to be joining Zimbabwe Cricket and can’t wait to start work with some great coaches and talented players,” Ballance said. “The opportunity to represent Zimbabwe has given me a new-found passion and excitement for the game.

“I have kept in touch with a number of people within Zimbabwe cricket over the years and it has been great to watch their recent progress especially.” This move has been on the cards for a while with Zimbabwe coach Dave Houghton, whose wife is the cousin of Ballance’s father, stating in August he would be keen to see him switch allegiances.

“I’ve known Gary since he was a kid and I speak to him reasonably regularly,” Houghton said. “I don’t think Gary would be against coming back to play for Zimbabwe but he’s still got to sort out things in England.

“I think he’s probably got another eight to nine good years in him, so if he wants to come back we certainly won’t turn him away.”

Source: The Mirror (UK)


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