Christchurch: “We were really lucky. Had we reached even three or four minutes earlier, we probably would have been inside the mosque,” said Bangladesh cricket team manager Khaled Mashud on Friday after narrowly escaping the deadliest terror attack in New Zealand’s history. The Bangladesh team, which was scheduled to play in the third and final Test against New Zealand starting here on Saturday, was on its way to the mosque, one of two sites of the shooting attack that killed at least 49 people. The tour has now been called off.
“I would say we were really lucky. Had we reached even three or four minutes earlier, we probably would have been inside the mosque. This could then have been a massive incident,” Mashud, a former Bangladesh captain, told reporters. “We are very thankful that we weren’t caught in the crossfire, but what we saw was straight out of a movie scene. We could see bloodstained people staggering out of the mosque.
“Maybe for about eight-ten minutes, we were all inside the bus and were sitting with our heads bowed, just in case someone fires at us.”
The bus carried 17 members of the team with Liton Das, Nayeem Hasam and spin bowling coach and former India spinner Sunil Joshi staying back at the hotel.
“This was a kind of accident that we would never expect nor want in any part of the world. We are very lucky because we had a number of us, about 17 of us, in the bus. Soumya Sarkar was also there, and we were all heading to the mosque for prayers.
“Only two of the players had stayed back in the hotel, and rest of the squad had gone there. We were very close to the mosque, and we could see from the bus. We must have been about 50 yards from the mosque,” said Mashud.
The players and support staff could hear gunshots as they feared for their lives inside the bus. Minutes later, they mustered the courage to disembark and rush towards the Hagley Oval stadium.
“When we realised that the shooters could have inflicted more damage if they had found us inside the bus all at once, we took a collective decision to escape through the back gate.
“We ran or quickly walked out through that gate. Then we were in the dressing room, and the local liaison people explained to us how we could get out of there most safely to our hotel.
“It wasn’t their fault, they tried their best according to whatever they are used to in their culture. Our players supported them a lot, with inputs on what was needed at that point of time. Our decision to get out was timely, because in videos we saw that people came out and kept shooting later.” Mashud said the team’s return plan to Bangladesh has been worked out.
“I think the players are okay, and the Test has been cancelled. They have told us and will send an official mail by 6:30 in the evening. Our plan to return has also been chalked out with the people in charge of logistics,” said the manager.
Mashud said the players are bound to be affected after escaping death by a whisker. “It is natural to be affected. When you see something like a terror attack in front of you, and you see blood spilled in front of you, this will affect any human being. It wouldn’t have occurred to us then that we would be safe later. Some of the boys inside the bus were crying as well, because they were all worried about how to get out of there.” He added that the players will remain inside the hotel for now.
“At this point, it is important not to leave the hotel, because an incident like this can happen anywhere. We don’t want to carry any memories of this incident. We have briefed everybody to have dinner at the hotel itself today onwards. All the players are together in one room, and trying our best to distract ourselves by talking about other things. “…we are lucky that if the players had either gotten off the bus later or gone to the mosque earlier, it would have been difficult to get out of there. When we were able to get out of there, it was because of the collective effort of the players,” Mashud added.