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

Henry Olonga
Henry Olonga
Henry Olonga
Born Henry Khaaba Olonga
July 3, 1976
Occupation
  • Cricketer
  • Musician
  • Songwriter
Spouse(s) Tara Read (m. 2004)
Website www.henryolonga.net

Contents

Background

Henry Olonga was born in Lusaka, Zambia. His father John was Kenyan and his mother Sabina, 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. 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. 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. 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 A in 2001-02 and then for Manicaland in 2002-03.[1]

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 One Day Internationals (ODIs) playing against South Africa in October 1995.[2]

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. Olonga was selected to play in one more World Cup match, against Kenya at Bloemfontein in the Super Sixes stage of the tournament on 12 March. He then announced his retirement from international cricket after Zimbabwe's final game in the competition. Olonga and Flowers were given honorary life membership of Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) later in 2003.[3] Death threats forced him to live in exile in England. A knee injury also forced his retirement from first-class cricket later in 2003, but he has played occasional matches since 2005 for the Lashings World XI. By 2010, he was calling for the restoration of international cricket between Zimbabwe and other countries.

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Controversy

Henry Olonga and Andy Flower black armband Zimbabwe democracy protest in 2003
Olonga, alongside team-mate Andy Flower, wore a black armband at 2003 World Cup to protest against "death of democracy" in Zimbabwe in the match against Namibia at Harare Sports Club. Olonga and Flower released a statement on 10 February 2003 stating that
"In all the circumstances, we have decided that we will each wear a black armband for the duration of the World Cup. In doing so we are mourning the death of democracy in our beloved Zimbabwe. In doing so we are making a silent plea to those responsible to stop the abuse of human rights in Zimbabwe. In doing so, we pray that our small action may help to restore sanity and dignity to our nation".[4]
A warrant was issued in Zimbabwe for Olonga's arrest on treason charges, which carries a death penalty. Death threats made him temporarily to go into hiding, and then into exile in England after Zimbabwe's last match of the tournament, against Sri Lanka in East London South Africa.[5]

Music career

Henry has been performing as a soloist since he was 14. He released a single called “Our Zimbabwe” and also released his first contemporary pop album “Aurelia” with one of the UK’s top producers, Robbie Bronnimann. He is currently working on his 2nd and 3rd albums one of which will be a gospel album.[6]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 John Ward, Henry Olonga- a short biography, Cricinfo, Published: September 18, 1999, Retrieved: July 8, 2014
  2. South Africa tour of Zimbabwe, 1995/96, ESPN Cricinfo, Retrieved: July 9, 2014
  3. Flower and Olonga given MCC life membership, ESPN Cricinfo, Published: OCtober 1, 2003, Retrieved: July 9, 2014
  4. Statement of Andy Flower and Henry Olonga
  5. Paul Newman: Nightmare over, Henry Olonga happy to live a new dream, MailOnline, Published: July 23, 2010, Retrieved: July 9, 2014
  6. Tara, Olonga, About Henry Olonga, Retrieved: July 9, 2014