Ballance met Rafiq in person earlier this week and has now issued an official statement, apologizing to the former cricketer. Ballance was among the many cricketers Rafiq had accused of racial abuse while opening up about his painful stint with Yorkshire.
Issuing an official statement, the 32-year-old admitted that his behavior towards Rafiq was ‘unacceptable’ and at times ‘racist’. According to a report in The Cricketer, Ballance’s official statement read:
"I have wanted to meet Azeem in person for quite some time, but I had to make sure I was in a good place when I did so. Azeem has been through similar mental health challenges and understands why this has taken me a little time.”
The statement added:
"I apologise unreservedly to Azeem for the words I used when we played together. I did use unacceptable - at times, racist - language. If I had realised how much this hurt Azeem, I would have stopped immediately.
"That's why I wanted to meet him this week and be clear in person that I intended no malice. That's not an excuse, I realise that the language I used was wrong."
It further read:
"I have accepted, from the outset, the words I used were wrong and I hope this statement brings Azeem some comfort. There is no place in our sport for this behavior and I am determined to play my part in ridding the game from racism and make it more inclusive. To do this we all need to be honest and learn from our past mistakes."
Ballance was among those charged by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) for bringing the game into disrepute following an investigation into the Yorkshire racism scandal.
“Gary must be applauded for his honesty” - Azeem Rafiq accepts Ballance apology
Reacting to the unreserved apology, Rafiq accepted it and termed the England batter as being ‘brave’ to admit the truth. He commented:
"From day one of opening up about my experiences, all I ever wanted was acceptance and apologies for what happened. Gary has been brave to admit the truth and I understand why the mental strain has made it difficult for him to make this apology any sooner.
"Gary must be applauded for his honesty and unreserved apology and must now be allowed to get on with his life.”
The 31-year-old added:
"Gary got things wrong, so did many people. The main issue is cricket's institutional racism. Gary's courage means he is now part of the solution. I hope he can be allowed to get on with his cricket.
"I would like to thank Gary. He has done cricket and the fight against racism a great service with these words. I would also like to thank those who have been in contact with me privately to apologise for what they witnessed,” he further said.
Meanwhile, according to reports earlier this month, Balance is considering switching to Zimbabwe.
The left-handed batter was born and brought up in Zimbabwe, and played five matches for the Under-19 team before moving to England in 2006. He represented England in 23 Tests and 16 ODIs from 2013 to 2017.