Former England batsman Gary Ballance could be poised for a return to international cricket with his country of birth Zimbabwe following a recent conversation with the African team’s head coach Dave Houghton.
Harare-born Ballance played for England in 23 Tests and 16 ODI but now qualifies to play for Zimbabwe since he has not played for his adopted nation since 2017.
The 32-year-old Yorkshire opening batsman is related to the Zimbabwe coach, who confirmed in an interview with Sunday News that he has spoken to his nephew about the possibility of playing for his country of birth.
“Gary (Ballance) is eligible (to play for Zimbabwe). The rules are that you can play for the country of your birth four years after your last game for the country that you’ve represented,” Houghton said.
Houghton also revealed that he has spoken to Glamorgan opener Eddie Byrom, who was also born in Zimbabwe, but cautioned that the players would have to show a willingness to play for their country of birth by initiating the process.
“All of those guys are eligible, only the two Currans will not be eligible because they have played for England recently. I have spoken to them (Ballance and Byrom) many times, I prefer them to start the conversation because if we are going out there trying to hunt them back, I want them to come back because they want to play for the country. I think the conversation I’ve had has been positive, I wouldn’t say that there is any likelihood they will be back with us soon but you can never tell for the future,’’ said Houghton.
Ballance returned to action for Yorkshire’s Second XI, early this month as he looks to rebuild his career since he admitted using racist language towards former teammate Azeem Rafiq.
He last played for Yorkshire in September last year and has since been charged by the ECB for bringing the game into disrepute, along with six other individuals and the club itself.
Ballance had taken a leave of absence from the sport but returned to the fold for Yorkshire in their Second XI Championship match against Essex on July 4.
Just like Balance, 25-year-old Byrom is eligible to play for Zimbabwe by birth but also qualifies to represent Ireland since he has an Irish passport.
Byrom is however contracted to Glamorgan until the end of the 2023 season which could make it difficult to convince him to give up his county contract for a career with Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe-born pace bowler Dustin Melton has also been linked with an international cricket career with his country of birth after English country cricket side Derbyshire recently confirmed that he would be leaving at the end of the 2022 season.
Houghton could also approach Northamptonshire batsman Ben Curran, the son of the late former Zimbabwe coach, Kevin Curran.
While his brothers Sam and Tom are still part of the England setup, Ben’s realist chance at international cricket is likely to be with Zimbabwe but the biggest stumbling block would be the fact that he would have to give up his local player status at his county which would cost him his contract.