THE Zimbabwe national men’s cricket team received a massive boost after batsman Gary Ballance committed to play for the country, having opted out of his contract with County side Yorkshire.
Balance, who played 23 Tests and 16 One Day Internationals for England, was born in Zimbabwe and played for the country at Under 19 level featuring at the 2006 World Cup before moving abroad.
Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) yesterday ended speculation on Ballance’s future after reports emerged months ago that the 33-year-old was considering returning to play for his country of birth.
ZC director of cricket Hamilton Masakadza expressed delight at capturing the experienced batsman’s signature.
“We are elated to have Gary, an immensely talented and experienced cricketer back home where it all started for him. He is a great addition to our domestic and international set-up and we are looking forward to him making a massive difference for us,” Masakadza said.
Ballance will add expertise and experience to Zimbabwe’s batting line especially ahead of next year’s International Cricket Council World Cup qualifiers that the country will host.
“I’m thrilled to be joining Zimbabwe Cricket and can’t wait to start work with some great coaches and talented players. 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,” Balance said.
On Thursday, Yorkshire announced that Balance had opted out of his contract and the club reluctantly agreed to release him.
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Yorkshire accepted Balance’s request to have the final two years of his contract cancelled on the understanding that he will not play for another club next season.
His career encountered obstacles after he admitted to using racially discriminatory language against former teammate Azeem Rafiq and has been seeking a fresh start after the ordeal.
“It’s been a privilege to play for this great club,” Ballance said.
“The support Yorkshire has given me off the pitch over the past year has been fantastic but I hope my decision will mean my career can have a fresh start.”
Ballance is set to get involved in the premier domestic competition, the Logan Cup, before he pulls on the national strip when Zimbabwe host Ireland for white ball cricket next month.