HENRY Olonga, the history-making cricketer, has issued an emotional apology after posting a premature death notice of his close friend and fellow Zimbabwean fast bowling legend Heath Streak last week.
Australia-based Olonga’s retraction post has been well received and acknowledged by his followers, including friends and the Streak family led by Nadine Streak, the wife of the ailing former Zimbabwe captain.
Olonga’s announcement understandably seemed well-sourced at the time, as we had also received the same saddening news from multiple reliable sources close to Streak, who was diagnosed with colon and liver cancer earlier this year and now confined to his family home in Turk Mine near Bulawayo.
Some of the world’s largest media organisations also ran with the story before later pulling it down after news filtered in that one of Zimbabwe’s greatest of all time was indeed alive.
Below is Olonga’s retraction posted on Facebook:
For those who don’t know me well or how I relate with Streaky, Nadine and the family I hope this helps with your insight.
Heath Streak has been my friend for 39 years since 1984 when we met at Reps (Rhodes Estate Preparatory School) primary school (in Matopos). I went on the educational European tour with him in 1985 that would leave an indelible impression on us, giving us all fortunate enough to go, a love for touring. Heath was extremely talented in all sports. Rugby, cricket, tennis, soccer and athletics. He was an enigma. He spoke fluent Ndebele and was good at everything. A champion in our school.
Reps produced many fine Zimbabweans in various fields and he is one of our most famous. Unfortunately he then went to Falcon College, a fine rival school of Plumtree high school and equally successful in producing successful alumni. I played Matabeleland schools rugby with him and also Matabeleland men’s cricket and eventually Zimbabwe cricket with him in the side for all of my career.
In the early days of my career Dennis and Heath among many others would fetch me and drop me off at school to play for the province as a 17/18 year old. A round trip of 200 km from the ground. And they would then return to the farm, which was even further. That’s how much they believed in me. If memory serves me right, Dennis (Heath’s father) was a national selector and equally fought my corner. I played for Old Miltonians with both of them at one point. I played at Good Hope Country Club many times, stayed in the chalets and had tea with the Streaks in their home, they were great hosts. I am indebted to the Streaks for the kindness they showed me throughout my early development in my formative years.
Stack or Streakey as we all called him was our best consistent all-rounder. He single-handedly won matches for us and the most glorious was probably his match winning performance at Eden Park in Auckland to win us the first overseas ODI series ever. He also played a fine role in our first Test victory ever against Pakistan and I shared many wonderful successes with him and also bitter defeats. I had issues in my career but Streakey was always there to help. When I was remodelling my action, he was there.
We all looked up to Heath, a giant and colossus of our game. Yes there were issues in the team at various points but when you play for your country you form a bond of brotherhood that lasts forever.
I saw the infancy of their relationship too, watched it grow and sang at the wedding of Heath and Nadine with a friend called Michael Brown, Lee Walker playing piano. Nadine was an ever present supporter of Heath’s and the team, even travelling around to offer her support for the team. So I got to know both of them well. The two of them were a great team. I watched their kids grow up until I left Zim. We had exchanged a few convos over the years and I visited him when he was playing county cricket for Warwickshire so, sporadic contact.
When news came to me that Heath was unwell earlier this year I made a concerted effort to reconnect after life had us all immersed in our own worlds. Heath has kept me up to date with all that is going on with treatment etc and we have had good contact throughout. The same with Nadine. They are the closest friends I have from the world of Zimbabwe cricket. Most others I have less interaction with.
In any case I was informed that Heath had taken a turn for the worse. We were encouraged to write kind words for his eulogy. So it appeared imminent. I will not go into too much detail how the mis-communication occurred but rest assured I heard the story first on Facebook like everyone else. I did immediately text Heath and Nadine to verify. It was a while before they could respond as it was late at night. I texted a few close cricket colleagues who know the family well and they confirmed it was true. I did ask pointed questions to verify but they were convinced. After all I had only heard from Heath the day before so it seemed kind of sudden. But I truly was devastated as I genuinely believed he was gone. And all the emotion I felt I am sure those who encountered the story felt it too.
Obviously I am extremely sorry that I took it as gospel. I then placed my own tributes which seemed to gather a lot of traction (amongst many tributes out there) only to get a text from Heath a few hours later in which he asked me to reverse the decision (He has always had a great sense of humour). I then had to back track and attempt to fix the error that unfortunately had gone global. But how can it get fixed easily in this day and age? So I retracted as best I could.
I of course profusely apologised to the Streaks after the clanger. They did not need this.
In any case, I hope you understand the context now and again appreciate your forgiveness for my part in this unfortunate affair. I am very sad about it.
It was extremely heart-warming to see how much love there is out there for our champion. Perhaps a silver lining.-STAFF WRITER