The devastating terrorist attack on Sri Lanka’s team bus shook up the entire cricket fraternity in March 2009. The Islanders were on their way to Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium for a Test match with Pakistan when fate had planned something else for Mahela Jayawardene’s men. Six Sri Lanka cricketers suffered injuries when the terrorist attack was unleashed on the visiting side.
The Sri Lankan side, after finishing the first Test in Karachi, were on their way the Gaddafi Stadium for Day 3 of the second Test. The visitors were in a commanding position in the Test, having scored 606 runs in the first innings against Pakistan. The terrorist attack instilled a sense of fear across the cricket fraternity and the series was subsequently called off in the wake of the incident.
Kumar Sangakkara, while remembering the tragic incident, said that they all were seated in the bus and suddenly their masseur announced that some men are shooting the bus. Sangakkara admitted that they fired grenades and rocket launchers when the hell broke loose.
“We were having our usual banters on the bus, people talking about what you are going to do this evening. One of our fast bowlers said ‘wickets are so flat here, I am going to get a stress fracture or something. I hope a bomb goes off, so we could go home’. And 20 seconds later, this happens,” revealed Sangakkara in a conversation with Sky Sports.
‘We heard gunshots and thought they were firecrackers’: Sangakkara
The wicketkeeper-batsman recollected that the team members thought they were firecrackers when they initially heard gunshots. Sangakkara rued that most of the security personnel guarding the Sri Lankan side died in the attack. While describing the atmosphere of the team bus at that moment, Sangakkara said that all players hid at the aisle of the bus and on top of each other.
“Our team’s masseur at the time was in the front, we heard the gunshots, we thought they were firecrackers. He got up and said ‘get down, they are shooting the bus’. Dilshan was also in front, I was more central. Mahela was right at the back, Murali was sitting right behind me so that he can annoy Thilan Samaraweera. I remember Tharanga Paranavitana, the opener, was in front.
“All hell broke loose, we hid at the aisle of the bus, on top of each other, and then the shooting started. They shot the bus as many times they could, and threw grenades, and fired a rocket launcher. And for some reason, I don’t know why but we survived,” remembered Sangakkara.
Sangakkara also heaped praise on the bus driver as hailed him as their hero. The bus driver, after escaping the bullets, drove the team to the ground and emerged as a saviour.
He also revealed that several players were seriously injured including himself, Thilan Samaraweera, Tharanga Paranavitana, Ajantha Mendis and one of their support staff named, Paul Farbrace.
“Thilan was injured, I got hit on the shoulder with a lot of shrapnel. Ajantha Mendis was injured. Tharanga Paranavitana gets up bleeding from his chest and collapses saying he’s been shot. We hear ‘oohs and aahs’ from all around the bus.
They tried to shoot the bus driver, missed him by a couple of inches. He was the hero, we survived probably because he was left alive to drive us through that. Every day he used to take four attempts to get through the narrow gate, but this time, he drove in straight into the ground. We get off,” said Sangakkara.
“Being Sri Lanka Cricket team, there comes a joke from the other side, and a bit of laughter and everyone started talking, chatting, joking. At no time, we felt sorry for ourselves. No one thought: why us” Sangakkara concluded.
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