Security cover for Test series was relatively relaxed: Dilshan

March 4th, 2009 - 2:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, March 4 (IANS) Sri Lankan batsman Tillakaratne Dilshan, who narrowly escaped the Lahore terror attack, said Wednesday that the security cover for the two-match Test series was relatively relaxed when compared to the one-dayers.

Dilshan paid a tribute to the Pakistani bus driver for virtually saving the lives of all the cricketers bravely, as terrorists attacked the team bus with rocket launchers, grenades and gunfire in the heart of Lahore while the players were on their way to the Gaddafi Stadium for the third day’s play in the second Test. Six policemen were killed. Six Sri Lankan cricketers and their assistant coach were injured.

“I think that security arrangement for the Test tour was relatively relaxed when compared to the three-match ODI series. There was a massive security cover for the ODIs, but I think they would have never expected such attacks on cricketers,” Dilshan told reporters as he hugged his little-son seconds after disembarking from a chartered Sri Lankan Airlines jet.

Emotionally moved players and their relatives hugged one another as the 25-member tour party returned to the country in the early hours of Wednesday after abandoning the tour.

Dilshan, who scored a blistering century just the day before, said that the bus they were travelling with the security back-up vehicles was just 500-600 metres short of the stadium when the gunmen unleashed their well-planned attack.

“The driver in a state of shock stopped the bus for a couple of minutes as the bullets started hitting the windscreen few inches above his head. I shouted ‘drive fast, drive fast’ as the gunmen started spraying bullets targeting the bus continuously,” he recalled.

“If not for the heroic deeds of the driver, things would have been totally different,” Dilshan said.

Reflecting the same sentiments, Sri Lanka’s outgoing cricket captain Mahela Jayawardene said that the team was “really fortunate to have returned home alive without any serious injuries” given the magnitude of danger that the team had gone through during the targeted attack.

“There were no life threatening injuries to any of our players, but they have been psychologically hit. Hopefully, reuniting with their family members would heal them faster,” he said.

Paying tribute to the Pakistani police officials “for sacrificing their lives only to save the lives of our cricketers”, Jayawardene said that the bus “driver was the real hero here”.

“For about 20-25 minutes, I thought I would never be able to return to Sri Lanka alive. We were helpless and were just hiding behind the seats even as the bullets were being fired and the players getting injured,” said Jayawardene, who had earlier expressed his desire to finish his career as skipper on a winning note.

Having been brought up in a background of explosions and terrorist attacks in the island nation for the past three decades, he said it was due to “natural instincts” that the players knew that they had to take cover behind the seats and lie on the floor.

“I am a Buddhist by religion and I think we have done some merit in our previous births to have escaped with minor injuries. We want some time now to be with our families to get rid of this nightmare,” he said, adding that it was too early to comment on future tours to Pakistan.

All the Sri Lankan newspapers were filled with the news and photographs of the Lahore mayhem. The state-run Daily News had its front page in black with big red letters saying “Lahore terror attacks SL cricket”.

“The attack cast another dark cloud over Pakistan cricket which has been reeling from a string of cancelled tours and tournaments,” it said, highlighting that the fears of attacks by militants linked to Al Qaeda have caused many teams either to postpone or cancel their tours to Pakistan in recent years.

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