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‘Get down, they’re shooting the bus’ – Sangakkara recalls 2009 Lahore ambush

Sangakkara attack
by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Detailing the horrific Lahore terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team in 2009, Kumar Sangakkara opened up about the panic-stricken moments when “all hell broke loose” inside the team bus, further revealing how the incident influenced his view on life.

Sangakkara, along with his teammates, was inside the bus, headed for the Gadaffi stadium when armed terrorists opened fire, killing six Pakistan policemen and two civilians. Six Sri Lankan players were injured.

“Usual banter in the bus [before the attack], people talking about what you are going to do this evening,” Sangakkara told Sky Sports Cricket. “One of our fast bowlers, sitting in the front, said ‘wickets are so bloody 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…”

“Our team’s masseur at the time was in the front, we heard gunshots, we only thought they were firecrackers. He got up and said ‘get down, they’re shooting the bus’.”

“All hell broke loose, we hid [in] the aisle of the bus, everyone on top of each other really, and then the shooting started. They shot the bus as many times as they could, threw grenades and fired a rocket launcher. And for some reason, I don’t know why, we all survived.”

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

Sangakkara said that, before the attack, the Sri Lankan team had requested the board to seek additional security and insurance for the players, but the plea was rejected.

“The bus driver – they tried to shoot him –  missed him by a couple of inches. That’s probably why we survived probably because he was left alive to drive us through that. Every day, he used to take about four attempts to get to the ground through the narrow gate, but this time, one perfect take, straight into the ground.

“We get off. Paranavitana – we thought for some reason had died – feels his back, and says, ‘I don’t have a hole in my back, so I think I am okay’ and walks off the bus. Thilan gets carried off, 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.

“Being us, being Sri Lankans, ten minutes into this, there comes a little joke from the other side, and a bit of laughter, and suddenly everyone starts breathing talking, chatting. At no time, we felt sorry for ourselves. We never get together into a huddle and said ‘why us?’”

“A lot of the talk was about the surprise that we had gone three-four minutes of what people go through everyday.”

“All these things allowed us to understand that – listen, why not us? What makes up so special that we can’t be attacked or go through something like this. Isn’t it our responsibility that, if you do, you get on back with life as best as you can.”

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