Bangladesh’s tour of New Zealand has been called off following a terrorist attack on two Christchurch mosques, in which at least 40 people have been killed. The players and other members of the touring party are safe.
The Bangladesh Cricket Team players escaped a shooting incident narrowly in Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch before they returned to the team hotel safely.
The plan was to offer the Friday Namaaz and then head for practice, but the Bangladesh players ended up narrowly escaping a terror attack inside a mosque close to the Hagley Oval ground in New Zealand’s Christchurch.
The team bus was barely metres away from the scene when the players first heard gunshots. Moments later they saw a woman collapse. Some of the players wanted to help the woman, but then they saw a horde of petrified people pouring out of the mosque, some of them covered in blood.
How team survived shooting?
Bangladesh team manager Mashud said that, “We were 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 [Liton Das and Nayeem Hasan, as well as Sunil Joshi, the spin-bowling coach] 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.”
“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. 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 team was initially barred from leaving the bus, but after a while, they disembarked and ran through Hagley Park to the ground. They later went back to the team hotel.
“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,” Mashud said.
“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.”
Bangladesh cricket team’s Analyst Shrinivas Chandrasekaran, who was in the bus, told PTI over telephone from the team hotel in Christchurch that, “We couldn’t react initially. In such a horror situation, your brain automatically freezes as you are terrified. That’s exactly happened to all of us.”
Shrinivas, a Mumbai-based software engineer who works as a video analyst with the Bangladesh team, said that initially they didn’t even realise that it was a terror attack.
“It was a few metres away from the mosque and we suddenly heard gunshots. Neither the players nor me initially realised what was happening. Suddenly we saw this woman fainting on the road. We thought it was a medical emergency and some of the boys wanted to get down from the bus and help the lady,” said Shrinivas.
“However, we realised that it was something much bigger than what we had thought. We saw people running for their lives and blood everywhere and suddenly we were all told to lie down quietly on the floor of the bus. I don’t know for how many minutes we lay on the floor of the bus. Once we understood, everyone was calm and did what was told.”
It was some time before the police arrived and they were escorted out of the backdoor of the team bus and taken to the ground.
However, the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to term it one of New Zealand’s darkest days.
“There is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme and unprecedented violence, which it is clear this act was,” Arden said.
“This is and will be one of New Zealand’s darkest days. I would describe it as an unprecedented act of violence, an act that has absolutely no place in New Zealand. This is not who we are.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has travelled to Christchurch with a message from the people of New Zealand – the country was united with the Muslim community in grief.
She left with a message for New Zealanders, from the community:This was not Christchurch, this was not a New Zealand that anyone knows.
(With inputs from AFP / Stuff.co.nz / ESPNcricinfo / CNN)