Rawalpindi set to wipe away fearful memories of 2009

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Aden - Yasmin Abdel Azim - Pakistan captain Azhar Ali (right) and his Sri Lankan counterpart, Dimuth Karunaratne, pose for a photograph with Test series trophy at the Pindi Cricket Stadium ahead of the first Test match. Image Credit: AFP

: As Test cricket returns to Pakistan, those who miraculously escaped the terror attack in 2009 at Lahore will never forget the chilling moments. It was an attack on cricket and cricketers that isolated Pakistan from international cricket for a decade.

Sri Lankan batsman Thilan Samaraweera, who was hit by a bullet, which penetrated 12 inches into his left thigh and needed surgery, will never forget that moment and the pain. Samaraweera, 42 and now a coach, had recalled the day: “I was lying on the floor after I got hit. I put my head under the seat to save myself from getting hit. My leg was bleeding and I thought my career was over but a doctor who saw my X-rays after reaching the hospital told me I am lucky and that I will play again. The bullet went through the muscle but did not hit the bone or knee.”

Samaraweera is respected now for not letting a bullet injury end his international career as he returned stronger to play the game. Sri Lankan players too have refused to be deterred by the fear that was inflicted on them through that incident, which happened to their senior colleagues 10 years ago.

Umpire Simon Taufel, who was a witness to the horror, was flown to Dubai after the incident. The Australian said about the scar it left for him: “Even today, fireworks and the sound of any gunfire or similar loud sounds, are somewhat uncomfortable for me. Even the sound of a spoon hitting the floor almost caused us to lie flat on the floor again and I was not even sure if we would be able to put it behind us.”

Announcing that henceforth Pakistan will not play on any neutral venue, Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Ehsan Mani said on the eve of the first Test match in Rawalpindi: “The onus will be on the other teams to tell us why they can’t play in Pakistan. Our default position will remain that Pakistan is safe. We play cricket in Pakistan (and if) you want to play against Pakistan, you have to come to Pakistan.”

UAE had staged Pakistan’s ‘home’ matches for the last 10 years but Mani made it clear it would be a thing of the past. “It’s only logical that cricket comes home. The concerns that people had about Pakistan, certainly for the last year or two, were not what the ground reality is. I am absolutely confident that in 2021 we’ll have England and in 2022 we’ll have Australia.”

Pakistan’s captain Azhar Ali thanked Sri Lanka for returning to Pakistan and said: “It’s a historic occasion and all the players are excited to be part of this. We thank the Sri Lankan team for coming here. The last Test was also against them so their visit will send a strong message to the world that we need to support each other.”

Sri Lanka have not lost a series in Pakistan since 1992 — winning two and drawing two. They beat Pakistan 2-0 in their last series in UAE two years ago.

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