Henry Olonga was the first black cricketer to play for Zimbabwe. He became famous with some impressive performances and was a regular member of the national team. Then, his career came to a sudden halt, and as it turned out, an end, when he decided to participate in a political protest.
For Indian fans though, the most prominent memory of the cricketer is regarding his duel with the great Sachin Tendulkar in Sharjah. In a tri-series played there in 1998, Olonga bowled a fiery spell to dismiss Sachin twice in one innings, first off a no-ball and then legitimately. The two teams next faced each other in the Final of that tournament. This time though, Sachin showed his class and tore apart the young Zimbabwean by scoring at nearly 10/over in his spell. It was an assertion of supremacy by the Indian legend that has become memorable.
A unique personality
However, Olonga has had an eventful life with many more important episodes than this one. It was in 2003 that the medium-fast bowler made a move that would alter the course of his life. When the then Zimbabwean government under Robert Mugabe launched a policy of acquiring land from white farmers with the aim of redistributing it to the impoverished majority black population, the cricket team's leading batsman Andy Flower decided to protest in a very visible manner – by wearing a black armband during one of the matches of the 2003 World Cup that Zimbabwe hosted. He sought the support of many of his team members and got it from, ironically, Olonga.
It was clear to both men that not only would this be the end of their careers but they would have to leave the country as well. Since then, both former cricketers have been away from their native land. But now, the colourful Olonga has set out on a completely new venture – to become a successful singer. The stage he chose to show his skills is even more unique – Australia's version of the popular singing reality show 'The Voice.'
Olonga walked out on to the stage and performed the song 'This is the moment,' originally sung by Anthony Warlow. The judges, oblivious to the identity of the singer due to the format of the show, were highly impressed and gave their approval to his performance with one of them, Delta Goodrem, pressing the button to signify the selection of the performer in her team. With this, Olonga is now in the second round of the show.
Not only were the judges impressed and the crowed wowed with his performance, fellow cricketers took to twitter to commend the former pacer. The former Test cricketer took to Twitter after the broadcast of the show and expressed his gratitude to various people. "So grateful to all who have supported me this far on my journey. I'm overwhelmed by the love and support. Special welcome to friends all over the world with whom I may have shared a meal with, addressed in a speech, stayed under your roof or played sport against. Thanks for sharing," the 42-year old wrote.
He alsol revealed on the show how he had to move to England after his protest. After living for 12 years in that country, he shifted to Australia – the country of his wife. While his partner in the protest during the 2003 World Cup, Andy Flower, became a highly-successful coach of the England team, Olonga disappeared from the cricket scene altogether. Hopefully, he would be even more successful in his new innings.