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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 May, 2003, 10:19 GMT 11:19 UK
Q&A: Henry Olonga
Zimbabwean fast bowler Henry Olonga joins us to answer your e-mails

Zimbabwean fast bowler Henry Olonga joins us to answer your e-mails ahead of the first Test with England.

Olonga has become something of a controversial figure in cricket.

Along with Andy Flower, he wore a black armband to denote the "death of democracy" in Zimbabwe at the opening game of the World Cup in Harare and was ousted from the team.

This summer he will be part of the TMS commentary team as well as playing charity matches for Kent pub side Lashings.

He is also a talented opera singer and is aiming to fulfil his musical aspirations too.

Phil Lloyd-Bushell, England

How difficult was it to stand up for yourself when you and Andy Flower wore the black armbands to denote the death of democracy at the World Cup?

Henry Olonga: I suppose the most difficult thing was facing the potential consequences of our actions. We had to come to terms with that, and that's probably what kept us alternating between the two views of whether we should go ahead and do it, or whether we should keep quiet and tow the line.

Q: Was it something you discussed as a team?

We didn't discuss it with the team or open it up to the team, which was probably the right decision. It wasn't a team affair; these were deeply personal feelings and convictions that we held.

We felt there may well be some people in the team that wanted to protest in a similar manner but we felt the strongest message would be if just Andy and did it alone.

Any other way would have clouded the motives. We didn't want anyone to think we had ulterior motives; we wanted people to see our stand for what it was. We were simply taking a stand against what we believed was wrong in the country.

We felt that we needed to stand up against those things. We felt that if we took a stand we'd be doing what was right and would be able to get a decent night's sleep knowing we had appeased our conscience.

David Massingham, Exeter

Henry, you are obviously a very intelligent and thoughtful man. Would you consider a move away from cricket into a political career?

HO: I made my stance in my capacity of a cricket player. The reason I have credibility is because I'm a cricket player, it's not because I have political connections, etc.

I don't desire to be in the political arena, people respect me because of my cricket career. I don't think that because one has credibility or moral authority that makes one a good politician necessarily.

Chris Barr, UK

Do you see yourself trying to qualify for county cricket or would your ambition be in other fields such as singing now? Would you return to international cricket if the Zimbabwe political regime changed for the better?

HO: I have a desire to pursue my musical interest yes, but I would also endeavour to play international cricket if the circumstances allowed.

However, at this stage of my life it would be unrealistic to think that I could just pick up my career where I left off.

There would have to be a change of people's persuasions towards me, some people don't particularly like me at the moment. But for the time being I'm concentrating on my commentary work this summer for Channel Four and the BBC.

Once the summer series is over between England and Zimbabwe I plan to play some cricket with Lashings. But no county team has offered me a place as all their overseas spots were secured many months ago, so there simply wasn't a position for me to pursue.

However, if I were to go back and play cricket seriously I would like to go back and play in Zimbabwe or for Zimbabwe, not just a county.

Thomas Lambert, North Yorkshire

How old were you when you started playing cricket? Who were your main influences, who inspired you?

HO: I was eight-years-old when I first started playing. My heroes were Wasim Akran and Malcolm Marshall and Bob Blair, a coach that used to come out to Zimbabwe.

I never focused on cricket with any sense of passion or fever, I simply played cricket along with all the other sports I took part in, rugby, athletics, etc.

Ahmad, London

Would you say 1998 to 2000 represented the best phase of your career? You produced some good performances during this period helping Zimbabwe to Test victories over India and Pakistan and a few notable one-day wins. Which would you pick as your most satisfying victory and bowling performance?

HO: Those were definitely my best years. My best performance would have to be when I got six wickets for 19 runs at Newlands against England in 2000, I think? Another notable performance was the five wickets I took against India in 1998 at the Harare Sports Club.

I felt I was really strong at that time, I probably haven't enjoyed the same sort of success for a long time, but those were a good couple of seasons for me.

Haseeb Sadiq, Manchester

You have played against the greatest players in the world but who is the best bowler you have ever faced and who is the best batsmen you have ever bowled to?

HO: Wasim Akram is definitely the best bowler I have ever faced. The best batsmen I've bowled to - it has to be Sachin Tendulkar. There are a lot of good batsmen around the world that I could go on and on, but suffice to say I've bowled to most of the top batsmen in the world.

Jonathan Adams, Bath

Is it right to say England are clear favourites for the first Test? Do you have the bowlers in the team to challenge the likes of Vaughan? What are your views on the England bowling attack?

HO: Zimbabwe has a young, inexperienced squad and that will probably count against them. However, having a young squad means you have a lot of players that have a point to prove and that are hungry for success. And that means the players will be motivated to do well.

England admittedly appears on paper to be a stronger and more experienced side, so the balance is tipped in their favour. But cricket is a strange game and teams that play with passion can sometimes overpower teams that are stronger on paper.

There are of course some other factors that will come in to it, the weather, etc. There is also the issue of possible protests, so we will have to wait and see how they deal with the conditions.

Claire Holman, Harare, Zimbabwe

As a long time supporter, I am worried that Zimbabwe's inability to be consistent is going to be their downfall in their games against England. Will we be able to give the English a good run for their money, and subsequently play well in the Triangular tournament, or do you think it will be another mixed bag?

HO: One of the challenges the Zimbabwean batsmen will have to contend with are the England conditions, with the ball swinging and seaming about. If they can handle that, they may well be able to compete a lot more consistently than we have been able to compete in England in the past.

With regards to the Triangular series it's too early to make any predictions at this stage. We will have to see how the team performs in the Test series and see who is or isn't in form and proceed from there.

Stephen Brown, Australia

I want to say what a great man you are and how you and Andy are greatly admired in Australia. Now since your mother is living in Australia, will you be visiting Australia and maybe playing domestic cricket here, if you did it would be a great thing.

HO: I must thank him very much for his kind comments. It's unlikely that I'll be coming to Australia to play cricket, but I may well come to visit. I'd love to visit, it's a wonderful country. I was there many years ago in 1997 to visit a cricket academy and I thoroughly enjoyed it and made many friends.

I would also love to visit my mum. I haven't seen her in about a year or so and I'm sure after the World Cup she has been fairly worried about me.

I would also like to just take a moment to say a big thank you to everyone that has supported me. I have had some tremendous support around the world and I'm really touched by the levels of compassion that people have displayed for the plight of the people in Zimbabwe.

Henry Olonga answers a selection of your e-mails

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