Cricketers are generally reluctant to talk on subjects other than their sport. But bring up the 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai, and the words gush out in a torrent, awash with a gamut of emotions, ranging from fear, anger, hurt and loss.
Exactly one year after the attack, the Mumbai team, currently playing against the Railways in New Delhi, remembers even the smallest details of that ghastly act.
They had returned home from Saurashtra on the same night when terrorists began their dance of death in the city. They were out on the road, on their way home from the airport, when the terrorists had just about fired their first shots.
“We were really sacred and feared for each other’s safety as the boys had left in different taxis to their homes. We feared someone might get caught in the attack somewhere. Thankfully, everyone reached home safe,” said Mumbai coach Pravin Amre.
The team’s doctor, Aijaz Ashai, however, was heading straight into trouble. “I was on my way home when my luggage atop the taxi loosened a bit and we had to stop to set it right. And while we were adjusting it back, I learnt that an explosion took place a few kilometres ahead on the same road. Had we not stopped to adjust the luggage, who knows what might have happened,” said Ashai.
The team spent the following days in dread and daze. “We couldn’t understand what was happening. We first thought it would be controlled soon, but when it went on and on, we were really scared and shocked. We kept talking to each other through the attack and afterwards to share our hurt and anguish,” said Mumbai opener Ajinkya Rahane.
And when it was finally over and everyone got over the shock and fear, the cricketers, like many others, took to streets to show their anger and resilience. “We joined several candlelight marches at the Shivaji Stadium. I even took my four-year old daughter out for the march. It’s was our way of showing our solidarity and resilience,” said Amre. And perhaps in a more concrete show of Mumbai’s famed resilience, the team took the field against Hyderabad a few days later in the postponed Ranji Trophy encounter, and muscled their way to an outright victory within three days. “We wanted to win that game. It was our way of showing that nothing could keep us down,” said Rahane.
Echoing his views, Amre said they wore black armbands in that game, as a mark of tribute to all those who had laid down their lives fighting the terrorists. “It was then that we realised security officials were the real heroes, not the movie or the sports stars,” said Amre.
Exactly a year later, the players feel they, as one ought to, have moved on with life. But deep within, the hurt and anger refuse to subside.