Cricket: Persevering Olonga enjoys the big stage

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The Independent Online
HENRY OLONGA, the Zimbabwe pace bowler, is a singing, dancing player who prays to God that he will knock over his opponents' stumps. The 22-year-old was responsible for the most thrilling climax of the World Cup so far when he skittled out the Indian tail in one over on Wednesday.

"I believe in God and I prayed to God yesterday. It was all feeling just right," said Olonga, whose three-wicket burst in five balls sealed Zimbabwe's surprise three-run victory. "I had a feeling I would have a meeting with destiny."

Olonga, who made his Test debut in 1995, revealed that he recently turned down a career on the stage. "I had an option to go to London to attend an acting and singing academy but I'm sticking with cricket for the moment," said the bowler, whose clearly enunciated English contrasts with the monosyllabic utterings of many sportsmen.

Olonga has not had a easy cricketing ride. He was called for throwing in a Test soon after making his debut and spent a long time rebuilding his bowling action, but recovered to take figures of 5 for 70 against India in a Test in Harare six months ago.

Olonga is one of only 18 professional cricketers in Zimbabwe. "I make a living out of it, but only because I'm single," he said. "It's really hard for the players with a wife and kids."

For decades, Zimbabwe had an all-white team and the black-majority showed little interest in the sport. But that has started to change in recent years when four players, led by Olonga, have earned international colours.

Since Olonga broke through two other pace bowlers, Mpumelelo Mbngawa and Everton Matambazando, and batsman Trevor Maalondo have also represented Zimbabwe.