Paperwork submitted to the ICC just months before he was charged by the ECB for part in Yorkshire racism scandal
Gary Ballance could turn his back on England by making a bombshell international comeback for Zimbabwe, Sportsmail can reveal.
Paperwork regarding the 32-year-old switching his allegiance from England to the south-eastern African nation was submitted to the International Cricket Council (ICC) earlier this year – a couple of months before he was charged by the ECB in June for his part in the Yorkshire racism scandal. The paperwork was not submitted by Ballance.
It could see Ballance sensationally drafted in for the Twenty20 World Cup in Australia, which starts in October. Though any potential shift is more likely to happen early next year.
The astonishing development is further highlighted by the familial link to Zimbabwe head coach Dave Houghton – his wife is the cousin of Ballance’s father – who is known as ‘uncle Dave’ to Ballance. Houghton was appointed to the position in June, and has previously mentioned that he has spoken to Ballance about playing for his side.
The news comes just 72 hours after the Yorkshire star smashed 95 runs off 25 balls in a friendly against Northumberland — his first Yorkshire First XI appearance since September 2021.
Ballance was born and raised in Zimbabwe, playing five matches for their Under-19s side before moving to this country in 2006 aged 16.
He played 23 Tests and 16 ODIs for England between September 2013 and July 2017 in an international career which saw him reach 1,000 Test runs in just 10 matches — the third-fastest for an England batter in history — before suffering a prolonged slump and has long been out of selection thoughts.
Following the T20 World Cup, Zimbabwe have 50-over World Cup qualifying fixtures early next year in a bid to qualify for the tournament.
It is believed that the left-handed batter is waiting for the conclusion of the ECB’s hearing into Azeem Rafiq’s racism allegations, which has been earmarked for October but could be delayed further, before making any future career decisions.
Ballance previously admitted calling ex-Yorkshire team-mate Rafiq a ‘P**i’ in a statement published last November, saying he ‘deeply regrets some of the language I used in my younger years’.
If he opts to change his country representation, it could require him to give up his lucrative Yorkshire contract which runs until the end of the 2024 season.
English county cricket rules state clubs can only have two overseas players in a squad for any single format.
This year, Yorkshire have signed Finn Allen and Shadab Khan (T20 Blast), Haris Rauf and Dimuth Karunaratne (County Championship), Dominic Drakes (as cover for Khan) and Shannon Gabriel (July matches in County Championship).
It is unlikely Ballance, who joined the club in 2008, would be given an overseas player contract due to the limited spaces available.
In terms of the ICC’s regulations on nationality, that aspect has been much more clear.
ICC rules state that at least three years must have passed since playing for a Full Member nation before switching countries — Ballance last played for England on July 14, 2017 against South Africa in a Test match.
The shock news follows a turbulent nine months for Ballance, which has seen the Zimbabwean-born player pull out of Yorkshire’s pre-season tour to the UAE in March before the club granted him leave to miss the start of the season in April due to mental health issues. It was amid uncertainty over whether he would even return to the game.
He was then charged along with six other ex-Yorkshire staff by the ECB in June after an investigation into racism at the club, but has since shown an intention to kick on with his cricketing career.
Last month, Ballance returned to the pitch for the first time since last year in a Second XI County Championship match against Essex.
The ICC, Gary Ballance’s solicitor and Zimbabwe Cricket were approached for comment.