Gary Ballance retires from all cricket months after Zimbabwe move

Ballance admitted to using racist language towards Azeem Rafiq at the Cricket Discipline Commission last month

Just three months after relaunching his eventful and controversial career in his native Zimbabwe, the former Yorkshire and England batsman Gary Ballance has retired from all cricket aged 33.

Ballance had signed a two-year deal to play for Zimbabwe after agreeing his release from Yorkshire, having admitted to using racist language towards his former team-mate Azeem Rafiq. Ballance admitted his guilt in five charges laid at him by the Cricket Discipline Commission before the hearing in London last month and apologised to Rafiq before heading home to Zimbabwe.

Ballance made a century on his Test debut for Zimbabwe, against West Indies in February (in doing so, he became just the second man to score a century for two Test nations), and appeared to be rebuilding his career but a shock statement on Wednesday revealed that he was walking away from the game.

“I had hoped my move to Zimbabwe would provide me with a new-found happiness for the game and I will always be thankful to Zimbabwe Cricket for providing me with an opportunity to return to international cricket and welcoming me into their team,” said Ballance.

“However, I have reached the stage where I no longer have the desire to dedicate myself to the rigours of professional sport and this would do Zimbabwe Cricket and the game itself a disservice, should I carry on. I wish them every success going forward.

“I have been fortunate to have some incredibly memorable moments in cricket, winning County Championships with Yorkshire and gaining the ultimate honour of representing England and Zimbabwe. I want to thank all of my clubs, coaches, support staff, teammates and supporters for their guidance and encouragement over my career, it has been a privilege.

“It is now time for me to move on to the next chapter of my life.”

Ballance’s career was rarely quiet. Born in Zimbabwe but educated at Harrow, he joined Yorkshire as a teenager and became firm friends with Joe Root, with whom he lived for a period. The pair soon found themselves in the England team together.

Three years after his last appearance for England, Ballance took a break from the game in 2020 to address “some heightened feelings of anxiety and stress” and did not play for Yorkshire’s first team last summer as the racism scandal engulfed the club. In late 2021, in documents for the cross-parliamentary Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s select committee, Rafiq alleged that Yorkshire had covered up elements of Ballance’s personal life, including the use of drugs.

“Over the years, YCCC protected Gary Ballance with respect to his drug and alcohol issues, allowing him to miss drug hair sample tests to avoid sanctions,” Rafiq claimed. “When he failed a recreational drug test and was forced to miss some games, the club informed the public he was missing games because he was struggling with anxiety and mental health issues.”

Ballance “categorically” denied the claims from Rafiq. The pair had once considered themselves close friends.

While he managed off-field issues, Ballance remained one of the most consistent run-scorers in the English game. He retires with a first-class average of almost 48 and 42 centuries. He also had an excellent List A record, averaging 47.4.

Ballance also enjoyed a superb start to his Test career in 2014, making four hundreds in his first nine matches in the process of becoming the third-fastest England batsman (and ninth overall) to 1,000 Test runs. But his returns dried up quickly and, with a perceived problem with his footwork, especially against left-arm pace, he was dropped two matches into the 2015 Ashes series. Consistent performances for Yorkshire saw him briefly recalled in both 2016 and 2017. – The Telegraph

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