Zimbabwe Cricket selectors have backed former England international Gary Ballance to make an instant impact in the national team after naming him in the squad for the upcoming three-match T20I series against Ireland.
Ballance signed a two-year deal with Zimbabwe Cricket in December, having been released early from his county contract with English county cricket side Yorkshire due to racism allegations.
The 33-year-old Ballance was born in Harare and represented Zimbabwe at the Under 19s World Cup in 2006, before moving to England.
After initially turning out for Derbyshire, Ballance joined Yorkshire in 2008 and went on to play 23 Test matches and 16 ODIs for England between 2013 and 2017.
Zimbabwe, whose coach Dave Houghton is married to the cousin of Ballance’s father, made four changes to the squad which competed in the recent T20 World Cup.
Star man Sikandar Raza has been permitted to skip the series and represent Dubai Capitals in the inaugural ILT20 and the Rangpur Riders in the Bangladesh Premier League instead.
Raza was recently nominated for the ICC Men’s Cricketer of the Year, ICC Men’s ODI Cricketer of the Year and the ICC Men’s T20I Cricketer of the Year awards on the back of his brilliant form last year.
Fast bowler Blessing Muzarabani misses out with a quadriceps injury, while wicketkeeper Regis Chakabva, who is now based in Australia and middle order batter Milton Shumba have been dropped.
Alongside Ballance, Tadiwanashe Marumani, Innocent Kaia and Victor Nyauchi have also been called up to the squad. And Ballance says the chance to play for Zimbabwe has given him a “new-found passion and excitement for the game”.
“I’m thrilled to be joining Zimbabwe Cricket and can’t wait to start work with some great coaches and talented players,” Ballance said.
“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.”
The T20I series will be played at Harare Sports Club with matches on January 12, 14 and 15. This is followed by an ODI series which will be played at the same venue on January 18, 21 and 23. The date for the second ODI was moved from January 20 to 21.
The Chevrons will then rest for 11 days before the two Test matches against the West Indies between February 4 and February 16 in Bulawayo.
Zimbabwe T20I Squad: Craig Ervine (captain), Gary Ballance, Ryan Burl, Tendai Chatara, Bradley Evans, Luke Jongwe, Innocent Kaia, Clive Madande, Wessley Madhevere, Tadiwanashe Marumani, Wellington Masakadza, Tony Munyonga, Richard Ngarava, Victor Nyauchi, Sean Williams