While the Sri Lankan cricket team is still coming to terms with Tuesday’s shocking shootout at the Liberty Roundabout on their way to the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, questions have been asked why the Pakistani team didn’t follow the Sri Lankan team bus as it had been the practice on other days. The conspiracy theory gained momentum after Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan spoke of a possible tip-off of the Sri Lankan team’s movements.
While investigations are on and we are yet to find out the forces behind the attack, proper security measures would have ensured that the Sri Lankans were not putting their lives in danger. Ejaz Butt, the Chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board has gone on record stating that six policemen died trying to protect the team and match officials. But it has to be brought to notice that although VIP security was promised to the Sri Lankan team, that wasn’t what they received.
Furthermore, this was the first Test series that Pakistan was hosting in 16 months and they should have done more to ensure the safety of the players. While their negligence has cost Pakistan dearly as it’s apparent that no international team will tour the country for a considerable period of time, their callous actions could also put the entire region in turmoil.
One official told ‘Sunday Island’ that the security provided during the Asia Cup and the Test series were complete contrast and this time it was the Police that were guarding the team instead of well trained commandos.
The Sri Lankan team was lucky to escape serious injuries, but even at the time of writing, Tharanga Paranavithana, Thilan Samaraweera and Ajantha Mendis were all receiving treatment at a private Colombo hospital.
While none of the injuries, according to medical experts, are life threatening, Samaraweera the worst affected player may have to wait a little longer before getting back to competitive cricket. While Samaraweera underwent an operation, that lasted for over two hours, to remove the bullet on his leg, Mendis underwent minor surgery to remove the shrapnel on the back of his head.
Although the Sri Lankans have been at the receiving end on this instance, it’s feared more trouble could come their way with possible cancellation of tours to the country. It may sound strange, but that could where things are heading according to local officials.
The country was likely to host the Champions Trophy and had provided assurance the weather would be fine for the tournament in October, but the incident in Lahore could have detrimental results affecting both Sri Lanka and India.
It’s believed that after the attack, the ICC is now contemplating to play the Champions Trophy in Dubai and Abu Dhabi if Sri Lanka is perceived as ‘unsafe’ by some of the teams and the scheduled Test and ODI home series against New Zealand later this year could also be in jeopardy.
"I fear for the worst. I fear that the whole region may suffer as a result of the happenings last week and we may have a few cancelled tours and even the World Cup being played in the sub-continent is not certain," a leading cricket administrator told ‘Sunday Island’ yesterday.
However, Duleep Mendis, the CEO of the board was all optimistic.
"For years we have provided top class security for teams. At times we have gone to the extent of providing bullet proof vehicles to teams and four layers of security guards have protected visiting teams and security experts have been happy with the arrangements we have had in place for teams visiting our country," Mendis said.
"Sri Lanka Cricket is confident that together with the security forces we can arrange the best security that visiting teams require and I don’t see any problem with this," Mendis said.
Chaminda Vaas, who was on the front seat of the team bus when the incident took place recalled the horrific moment. "It wasn’t going to be another demanding day for me as I was not playing in Lahore. We had batted ourselves into a commanding position and breaking the opening wicket stand in the last over before close of play on day two was crucial and the momentum was on our side and we were all looking forward for the game," Vaas said.
"And then the unthinkable happened. We were intercepted by a white car and gunmen starting firing at us from all corners. Those few second were really horrifying. I feared for the worst as the gunmen started firing at the bus, " Vaas a father of two recalled.
"We have got fond memories of the Gaddafi Stadium. It was there we won the World Cup and when we left the ground in 1996 we were over the moon. But it was the complete contrast exactly 13 years later. We were horrified," Vaas said.
Despite the incident it doesn’t look like relationships between the two cricket boards have been stained as players and officials were quick to comment that it wasn’t a mistake to tour Pakistan. But given the way things unfolded, it’s very unlikely that a Sri Lankan team will tour Pakistan for a considerable time. It certainly was a narrow escape for the Sri Lankans.