Henry Khaaba Olonga
July 03, 1976, Lusaka, Zambia
Right hand bat
Right arm fast
The first black cricketer and youngest-ever player to represent Zimbabwe at international level, Henry Olonga came back from being called for throwing in a Test in early 1995 and rebuilt his action completely. At full pace he was rated as the fastest bowler in the country but also one of the least accurate, with a tendency to bowl more no-balls and wides than most. He also had difficulties with injury. His ability as a strike bowler was shown in the 1998-99 tour of Pakistan when he ripped through the experienced Pakistan top-order to set up a win in the first Test.
Olonga made his first-class debut at the age of 17 in the Logan Cup for Matabeleland against Mashonaland, taking five wickets. He had mixed fortunes the following season, and it came as a general surprise when he was chosen for the Test team to play Pakistan in 1994-95. He took a wicket in his first over but was also no-balled for throwing. Olonga sought advice from Dennis Lillee, modified his action slightly and the questionmarks disappeared.
He was included in the Zimbabwean World Cup team in 1995/96 but did not play a match; when selected for the final game he asked to stand down, humbly explaining that he was out of practice and did not feel able to give of his best.
From 1998 onwards Olonga was a fairly permanent fixture in the Zimbabwe side without ever really setting the world on fire. Selected for the 2003 World Cup, Olonga made international headlines when, along with Andy Flower, he donned a black armband to protest against the "death of democracy" in Zimbabwe. Widely praised for his bravery, the act ensured that Olonga played no meaningful part in the remainder of the competition and also that he could not return to his homeland after the tournament. He fled Zimbabwe and found a new home in England where he was in demand as a media pundit and commentator.
Olonga is a fine role model for young cricketers, one whose cheerfulness, humility and positive attitude win him friends wherever he goes.
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