Johannesburg: South African fast bowler Wayne Parnell has converted to Islam after a period of personal study and reflection and will celebrate his 22nd birthday on Friday as a Muslim.
Parnell confirmed in a statement on Thursday that he converted to Islamic faith in January this year and is considering a name change to Waleed, which means 'Newborn Son'.
"While I have not yet decided on an Islamic name I have considered the name Waleed which means Newborn Son, but for now my name remains Wayne Dillon Parnell. I will continue to respect the team's endorsement of alcoholic beverages. I am playing cricket in Sussex and this is my immediate focus," said Port Elizabeth-born Parnell.
"As I am approaching my first period of fasting, I ask that this special time is treated with respect. I am a young man, a professional cricketer by trade, and while I can appreciate and am grateful for the public interest in my personal life, my faith choice is a matter which I would like to keep private," said the promising Warriors left-arm seam bowler.
Proteas team manager Mohamed Moosajee, himself a Muslim, said Parnell's Muslim teammates Hashim Amla and Imran Tahir had not influenced his decision to convert from Christianity.
"Wayne already decided a few months ago to follow Islam," Moosajee said of the cricketer, who excelled during the ICC World Cup on the subcontinent.
"The decision to convert was his own decision, but I know nothing of the name change," added Moosajee.
Fellow players, preferring to remain anonymous, said they believed Parnell was very serious about his choice of religion and that he had not touched a drop of alcohol, forbidden to Muslims, since the recent Indian Premier League series.
Supporting Moosajee's denial of influence by Amla, the players said he had never attempted to convert them to his religion, although they had all been very impressed by the discipline and strict adherence that Amla showed to his religion, by refusing to participate in celebrations with them that involved liquor, staying steadfast in his daily prayers even while on tour, and refusing to wear the kit sponsored by South African beer brand Castle Lager.
In his first two years after making his debut for the Proteas in 2009, Parnell developed a hard-living reputation.
In October 2009, he was kicked out of the provincial side Warriors following an incident in a night club in the city of Port Elizabeth in the early hours of the morning.
He came to limelight when he captained the South African Under-19 team in the U-19 World Cup in 2008. He was the youngest player to get a central contract in 2009 at the age of 20 years.
He is the second Christian to have converted to Islam after Pakistan's Yousuf Youhana (now Mohammad Yousuf) in 2006.