Gary Ballance leaves Yorkshire amid Azeem Rafiq racism scandal

Gary Ballance of Yorkshire during the Specsavers County Championship Division One match between Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire at Headingley - Getty Images
Gary Ballance of Yorkshire during the Specsavers County Championship Division One match between Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire at Headingley - Getty Images

Gary Ballance has left Yorkshire amid the on-going fallout from the club’s racism scandal and will return to his native Zimbabwe.

The county announced the former England batsman, among those charged by the England & Wales Cricket Board according to their code of conduct with racially abusing Azeem Rafiq, had been released with two years of his contract left to run.

The 33-year-old, who had been at Yorkshire since 2008 having moved to England from Zimbabwe two years earlier, missed most of last season with mental health issues triggered by the scandal and had asked to leave.

He agreed not to play for another County Championship team next year.

Ballance was last year banned indefinitely from representing England for calling Rafiq a “P***”, something he admitted doing but denied intending any offence.

He was also accused of using the name “Kevin” as a slur against black people and of calling Rafiq “Rafa the Kaffir” – a similar insult – the latter of which he strenuously denied.

His England ban was a token one given he had not played for them since 2017 but he still faces further action from a much-delayed Cricket Disciplinary Commission hearing into the Yorkshire racism scandal.

Ballance, who had struggled with his mental health even before the current accusations against him emerged, said: “It has been a privilege to play for this great club. On a personal level, I have gone through a challenging period – and after much discussion I decided, together with my family, that it would be right to make a change. I asked the club if it was willing to release me from my contract, and I am grateful for its understanding as we have reached agreement.

“The support Yorkshire has given me off the pitch over the past year has been fantastic and I am appreciative of the club’s help, but I hope that my decision will mean that my career can have a fresh start.”

Darren Gough, the club’s managing director of cricket, said: “We are sad to see Gary go, but he leaves with our best wishes. He has been a mainstay of our side for many years, and a superb batsman. As a club, we recognise that the last 18 months have been difficult for Gary, for numerous reasons, and the most important thing for him is to get better and play again. He felt he could not do this at Headingley, and we agreed to his request reluctantly but knowing that it was the right decision for him personally.”

Balance played 23 Tests and 16 one-day internationals for England between 2013 and 2017, including in two Ashes series.