Nantie Hayward, the South African fast bowler, has reconsidered his decision to quit international cricket, and has insisted he would like to play for South Africa again if selected.
Hayward, 27, has played 14 Tests for South Africa, his last being against Pakistan in January 2003. Later that month, it was revealed that he had signed a deal with Worcestershire which precluded him from being released for international matches. At the time, he said he agreed to the contract because he had not been consistently selected in the national squad, and had therefore given up hope of future selection. He also felt he had to secure his financial and playing future elsewhere.
However, Gerald Majola, the South African board's chief executive, has confirmed Hayward has changed his tune. "I spoke to Nantie this week and he expressed a real keenness to play for South Africa again," he said. "Nantie said he had acted hastily in declaring his international career over last year, and that he was now fully committed to regaining a place in the national squad."
He added, "I have also been in contact with my counterpart at Middlesex, Vince Codrington, who has assured me that the county would not stand in Nantie's way if he were required to play for South Africa during the period of his contract."
Speaking from London where he is playing for Middlesex, Hayward himself said: "I am very excited about the possibility of playing international cricket again. I made some rash decisions, which I have now put behind me and I'm totally focused on playing for South Africa again, I would love to get the chance to prove myself at the highest level."
Hayward's rethink has also been given the approval from Eric Simons, South Africa's coach. "This is good news," he said, "we need committed, fit fast bowlers in the mix and to have a man of Nantie's ability fighting for a place in the team can only be good for cricket. If he shows the right type of form he will definitely come into consideration for selection."
Meanwhile, Neil Johnson, the former Zimbabwe allrounder, has now qualified to represent South Africa after completing his four-year period of residency.
Johnson, 34 and born in Zimbabwe, played 14 Tests and 48 one-dayers for Zimbabwe between 1998 and 2000. After he left Zimbabwe, he signed for Western Province as an overseas player and is now able to play for the national team. "I'm very excited, it would be a dream come true if I did actually get the opportunity to play for South Africa," Johnson said. "I was lucky enough to play at the highest level for Zimbabwe for four years early in my career and now I have something to play for at this late stage in my career."