HARARE – Former England batter Gary Ballance is set to play international cricket for Zimbabwe after completing a qualification period to switch allegiance back to his country of birth.
The 33-year-old Ballance, who was born in Harare, played for Zimbabwe at the Under-19 World Cup in 2006 but represented England at senior level between 2013 and 2017. He played 23 tests for England and scored four centuries at an average of 37.45. Ballance also represented England in 16 one-day internationals.
He has signed a two-year contract with Zimbabwe Cricket after announcing his departure from English county team Yorkshire.
“I’m thrilled to be joining Zimbabwe Cricket and can’t wait to start work with some great coaches and talented players,” Ballance said on Friday.
“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.”
Ballance joins the Zimbabwe national squad despite having been implicated in a racism case that shook English cricket last year. Ballance admitted using a racial slur against Yorkshire teammate Azeem Rafiq, but claimed “this was a situation where best friends said offensive things to each other which, outside of that context, would be considered wholly inappropriate.”
Rafiq had accused Yorkshire’s leadership of institutional racism and said it was “not about individuals.”
Earlier this year, the Zimbabwe cricket board’s head, Tavengwa Mukuhlani, said Ballance was welcome.
“As ZC, we are looking for any Zimbabwean who want to can come and fight for honors with players that are there,” Mukuhlani said. – AP