Gary Ballance released by Yorkshire amid Azeem Rafiq racism scandal after asking for his contract at the club to be terminated two years early… and he won’t be allowed to play County Championship cricket in 2023
- Gary Ballance has not played a professional match since September 2021
- He is one of seven investigated over allegations of racism at Yorkshire
- Ballance did not report for winter training with the rest of the first-team squad
- The 33-year-old has has now asked to sever ties with the club he once captained
- Ballance won’t play County Championship cricket in 2023 following his release
Gary Ballance has left Yorkshire and will not play domestically here next season after requesting to be released from the final two years of his contract at Headingley.
As Sportsmail reported last month, Ballance – one of seven individuals summoned to appear before the Cricket Discipline Commission following an ECB investigation into allegations of racism at the club – did not report for winter training when the rest of the first-team squad returned, throwing his future into fresh doubt.
Now, the 33-year-old, Yorkshire’s highest-paid player, has severed ties with the club he once captained.
Ballance has not played a professional match for them since signing a new lucrative, three-year deal in September 2021.
It was anticipated that the ex-England batsman would return to action during the final month of the 2022 season, after publicly apologising to Azeem Rafiq in late August for using racist language towards his former county team-mate.
But he remained on the sidelines and today Ballance 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.
Gary Ballance has left Yorkshire after the 33-year-old asked for his contract to be terminated
Ballance publicly apologised to Azeem Rafiq (pictured) after using racist language
‘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.’
As part of the agreement, Ballance will not play for another County Championship team in 2023.
‘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,’ said Yorkshire managing director Darren Gough.
Ballance will not play County Championship cricket in 2023 as part of the agreement
‘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.’
Having spent several months out to protect his mental health, after admitting during the independent probe into racism at Yorkshire that he called Rafiq the derogatory term ‘P***’ during two-way putdowns between former close friends, he had been set to return for the low-profile Royal London Cup competition last August but had a late change of heart.
Sportsmail then revealed he was looking to continue his professional cricket career with his native Zimbabwe, for whom he made five Under-19 appearances before switching allegiances. A claim Ballance denied.
But, having opted out of playing county cricket next summer, his next venture looks increasingly likely to be abroad.
Darren Gough said it is important for Ballance is to ‘get better and play cricket again’