Summer is for playing cricket, and winter is for reading about it.
So with that in mind I’m going to highlight a few books during this winter break that I personally have read, some old, some new, but all worthy page turners.
Blood, Sweat and Treason – Henry Olonga My Story
This first book is a mixture of part biography, part political story as it describes the events and Henry Olonga’s life leading up to the ‘black armband’ protest during the Zimbabwe World Cup. The book starts off with the day of the event and the fear that Henry felt inside knowing he needed to escape the country in order to avoid prosecution from Mugabe’s militant regime.
The book then continues to talk about his rising to become the first black cricketer for the country, as well as his issues regarding his bowling action, and his ongoing injury problems. The book itself is an interesting view compared to most cricketing books, as they tend to follow ‘superstars’ of the game and Olonga by his own admission in the book describes himself as an ‘average’ cricket who on his day is ‘world class’ This honesty provides the reader with a strong feeling of Olonga’s passion not just for cricket, but for life and the future of his once growing country.
As devote Christian, you can feel his faith portrayed in this book. Yet this theme is not pushed on the reader to believe, with Olonga giving examples of times when things have moved in mysterious ways. It certainly alerts you to the fact that there are forces that seem to move to align certain events at just the right time, some call this luck, others faith. Having mainly read books based on English or Australian sides, it is refreshing to take a look at international cricket from a minnow’s point of few, as Zimbabwe went about trying to make themselves into a cricketing nation in both the short and long forms of the game.
The build up to the events that changed Olonga’s life and that, of Andy Flowers is, detailed and insightful, and shows a strong bond between cricket and the country. And it shows in the lead up to this event that it was not a rushed protest, but one that was carefully planned, thought of and achieved with the great help from many other individuals. Post protest Henry Olonga having moved to England now lives a much quieter life compared to his team-mate Andy Flower and it almost seems as if the two were brought to together by this historical moment, yet it was only this that bonded them.
Henry Olonga’s story is one which needed to be written, and I’m glad have read it. A story of a one person’s efforts to, inform others of his countries loss, a protest that cost a cricketer his career. This is a story of courage to stand-up to what you believe and have the conviction to stand by your cause. Everyone should this at least once and then remember the power that sport can have on society.