Henry Olonga

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Henry Khaaba Olonga(born 3 July 1976) is a former professional cricketer, who played test cricket for Zimbabwe and domestic first-class cricket in Zimbabwe for Mashonaland and Manicaland. He was the first black cricketer and the youngest person to play for Zimbabwe.

Background

Henry Olonga was born in Lusaka, in Zambia. His father John was Kenyan and his mother Sabina was Zimbabwean. He has two sisters and two brothers. He spent the first few years of his life growing up in Zambia and Kenya before moving to Zimbabwe in 1981 just after independence. His brother,Victor Olonga plays rugby in Zimbabwe, and became captain of the Zimbabwe national rugby union team. The former Kenyan minister Francis Masakhalia is his uncle. He is married to Tara Read a Physical Education teacher. The couple married in 2004 in Adelaide Australia.

Educational Background

Olonga went to Rhodes Estate Preparatory School and played cricket for the Partridges, the Zimbabwe national primary schools cricket team. He then attended Plumtree School, where he became head boy. He was involved in acting, athletics and rugby in addition to cricket. His portrayal of Charlie Davenport in Annie, Get Your Gun led to his being nominated as one of the finalists in the search for Zimbabwe's best high schools actor. Cricket was not his only sport,he was a leading athlete and rugby player as well, but these have now were put aside for cricket. In a school cricket match against Brighton College, he scored 103 runs and took 8 wickets for 15 runs. He found a firm Christian faith in 1992 at a youth camp in Marondera.[1]

Cricket Career

When his athletics coach left the school his cricket coach took him under his wing and presented him with a new dream he had not previously considered. Zimbabwe had just gained test status and was in need of a fast bowler. Henry possessed the speed and athleticism needed to be a very good fast bowler. Once this dream had been planted he decided this was a path he would like to pursue. Olonga made his debut in first-class cricket in March 1994, aged 17, playing for Matabeleland against Mashonaland in the Logan Cup. He took five wickets in the match, but had varied performances over the next couple of years. He continued to play domestic first-class cricket for Matabeleland until 1998-99, and then for Mashonaland in 2001-02 and then for Manicaland in 2002-03. [2] It was initially discovered that Olonga was ineligible to play due to the fact that his citizenship was Kenyan rather than Zimbabwean, as his father still had ambitions for him to represent Kenya as an Olympic athlete. Henry then opted out of this option, and is now a Zimbabwean citizen. This cleared the way for his selection against Pakistan, as the country's first black and youngest-ever player. A right arm fast bowler, Olonga was also the first black cricketer to play for Zimbabwe, and the third Zambian-born Test cricketer after Phil Edmonds and Neal Radford of England. Zimbabwe beat Pakistan by an innings and 64 runs, the team's first ever Test victory, mainly due to a double century from Grant Flower, and centuries from Andy Flower and Guy Whittall. Olonga took the wicket of Saeed Anwar in his first over, but he was no-balled once for throwing. With help from Dennis Lillee, he rebuilt his action before returning to international cricket. He made his debut in ODIs playing against South Africa in October 1995.[3]. He helped Zimbabwe to its first ever Test victory game. His international career came to an end in 2003 after Olonga and team mate Andy Flower wore black armbands during an international cricket match in the 2003 Cricket World Cup to "mourn the death of democracy" in Zimbabwe. Death threats forced him to live in exile in England.

Controversy

Olonga alongside team-mate Andy Flower, wore a black armband at 2003 World Cup to protest against "death of democracy" in Zimbabwe. He was unable to return to Zimbabwe and was charged with treason (which carries the death penalty). Death threats forced him to live in exile in England, where is pursuing a career as a cricket commentator and singer.[4]

References

  1. Henry Olonga- a short biography
  2. Henry Olonga- a short biography
  3. [www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/64500.html South Africa tour of Zimbabwe, 1995/96]
  4. [www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/henry-olonga-he-has-a-love-for-zimbabwe-even-now-but-while-mugabe-is-alive-he-knows-he-cant-return-2034849.html Henry Olonga: He has a love for Zimbabwe even now. But while Mugabe is alive, he knows he can't return]