Henry Olonga on his famous World Cup protest and how he and Andy Flower overcame strained relationship

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ONCE upon a time, Henry Olonga was a budding young quick plying his trade for Zimbabwe.

Nowadays, he makes his living as an opera singer.

It’s one of the more bizarre changes of career you’re likely to hear of, but the story behind it is inspiring.

Olonga famously staged a protest against Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe during a World Cup clash in Harare in 2003, donning a black armband alongside teammate Andy Flower to mourn the death of democracy in the country.

It was a brave and dangerous move from a man who was still 26 years old, entering his physical prime.

It was a risk that ultimately ended his career, with Zimbabwe’s first black international cricketer forced to step away from the game, fearing for his life and fleeing the country after being informed of multiple death threats.

Andy Flower (left) and Henry Olonga (right) protested Robert Mugabe at the 2003 World Cup.Source: AP

Olonga’s protest was even more remarkable for the fact it was alongside Flower, a man he had never been on the best of terms with. It’s a strained relationship he believes took root during an ugly dressing room fracas.

“There was a senior player who accused a young black player of being the darkest person he’d ever seen, ‘black as charcoal’, something to that effect,” Olonga told Robert ‘Crash’ Craddock on Cricket Legends, to air on Sunday night after the fourth day’s play of the third Test between Australia and India.

“I thought ‘excuse me.’ I said: some of us find that offensive. It got a little heated.

“Of course the story was ‘Henry is stirring up racial stuff’…that was part of tensions that developed between myself and Andy Flower which lasted for a few years.

“If you asked me in the midst of all that nonsense whether I’d ever do a protest with Andy Flower, no way, no way, it was ludicrous, it was preposterous that that would happen.

“But all you need to do is have an open mind, read a little bit about the politics of your country and your mind can get changed.’

Olonga now calls Australia home, making a living as an opera singer, having first fallen in love with performing as a 13-yer-old when he was cast as a girl in his school’s rendition of Oklahoma.

WATCH Cricket Legends with Henry Olonga on Sunday night on Fox Sports channel 506 after the day four of the third Test.