‘Get down, they’re shooting the bus’: Kumar Sangakkara recalls 2009 Lahore bus attack

The attack took place on Sri Lanka’s bus when they were on the way to the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore for Day 3 of the Test when their bus was attacked by 12 gunmen.
Former Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara.(AP)
Former Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara.(AP)
Updated on Jun 05, 2020 12:01 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | Byhindustan times.com | Edited by Karan Prashant Saxena

Former Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara recalled the attack on the team bus that took place in Lahore during 2009 Test series against Pakistan. The first Test between the two teams had ended in a draw. By Day 3 of the 2nd Test in Lahore, Sri Lanka were in a commanding position after posting 606 on the board in the first innings. Pakistan had registered 110/1 by the stumps on Day 2. The attack took place on Sri Lanka’s bus when they were on the way to the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore for Day 3 of the Test when their bus was attacked by 12 gunmen.

Speaking in an interview to Sky Sports Cricket, Sangakkara recalled the entire episode. “At the time, when going to Pakistan, security was an issue. We had written about our concerns on security, and were exploring insurance for players if something happened. So, we were refused politely, and we were told that they have done all the groundwork to ensure security, so we went.”

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“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,” Sangakkara revealed.

“Our team’s masseur at the time was in the front, we heard the gun shots, 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, we survived,” Sangakkara said.

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“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. Paul Farbrace has an iron spike through his hand, so we get into the ground, which is 500m from there, very rudimentary security of course. Unfortunately, most of the security personnel guarding us, died and that was tragic.”

“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. Everyday 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. Tharanga Paranavitana, we thought had died for some reason, feels his back, and says, I dont have a hole in my back, so I think I am okay and walks off the park. Thilan is bleeding everywhere, he’s been shot very badly. He gets taken by ambulance to hospital. Ajantha Mendis and I were due to get in the next ambulance, but then they were shooting next to ambulance, so we decided we would stay here,” he further recalled.

“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’,” the former left-handed batsman signed off. 

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