Relieved relatives, government officials and fans were waiting for the Sri Lanka cricketers as they reached the Bandaranaike International airport early on Wednesday.
As the wounded and weary cricketers trooped out, their near and dear ones rushed towards them, unable to control their emotions. For the cricketers, the flight from Lahore to Colombo was possibly the longest they had travelled in a long time.
T Samaraweera and T Paranavitana, who received gunshot injuries in the Lahore attack, were the first to be brought out and taken to a private hospital. While Samaraweera received a bullet wound on his thigh, Paranavitana was injured on his shoulder.
“They were admitted to a private hospital and will be operated upon today. The rest of the players will go home with their families. They need to rest,’’ sports minister Gamini Lokuge, who was present at the airport to receive the players, said. On the other injured players, the minister said none were serious. “They just want to rest.”
A special medical unit had been sent to accompany the players.
Captain Mahela Jayawardene said he “just very happy to be back”, as his wife and family looked on. “For about 20-25 minutes, I thought I would never be able to return to Sri Lanka alive. We were helpless and hiding behind our seats even as bullets were being fired and the players getting injured.”
Tillakaratne Dilshan told reporters that security for the two-Test series was relatively relaxed compared to the one-dayers. “Security arrangements for the Test series were relatively relaxed.
“There was massive security cover for the ODIs, but I think they never expected such an attack on cricketers,’’ Dilshan said, even as Ajantha Mendis walked out with a bandage behind his right ear.
Dilshan was all praise for the bus driver. “He was in a state of shock and stopped the bus for a couple of minutes as bullets started hitting the windscreen, a few inches above his head. But he acted when I shouted ‘drive fast, drive fast’. If not for his heroic deed, things would have been totally different.”