Peter Badel, in the Herald Sun, 3 March 2011
THE sounds and images will stay with Sri Lanka’s cricketers and their Australian coach, Trevor Bayliss, for the rest of their lives. Opening bat Tharanga Paranavitana with blood splattered across his chest; the ear-splitting “pop-pop-pop” of terrorists’ AK-47s; star batsman Thilan Samaraweera slumped in agony, fighting for his life on the floor of the team bus after a bullet tore through his leg. They will never forget the fear of death.
Pic by AFP
As Sri Lanka prepared to face Australia in their World Cup clash on Saturday night, Bayliss, 48, recalled the attack that sent shockwaves through world cricket. On this day two years ago, he and his players were travelling to Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium for a Test against Pakistan. Twelve masked gunmen, armed with grenades, rocket launchers and Kalashnikov rifles, stormed the Sri Lankan team bus.In 90 seconds of mayhem, six policemen and two civilians were killed and six Sri Lankan players injured as terrorists set off explosives and riddled the bus. Six players who survived the bloodshed – captain Kumar Sangakkara, deputy Mahela Jayawardena, Samaraweera, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Ajantha Mendis and Muthiah Muralidaran – played in Sri Lanka’s nine-wicket World Cup victory against Kenya yesterday. Another two – Dilhara Fernando and Chamara Kapugedera – are in the 15-man World Cup squad.
The physical scars have healed but the memories remain vivid.”I try not to think about it terribly much these days,” Bayliss said yesterday at Colombo’s luxury Cinnamon Grand Hotel, his home for the past 18 months.
“I still remember the date well – March 3, 2009. The two years has gone pretty quickly. Thankfully, everyone lived to tell a story about it. It could have been a whole lot worse. I just remember not having time to think. I was on the ground thinking, ‘Jesus, we’re being shot at’. I couldn’t believe it.”
“In a situation like that time seems to stand still.”
Samaraweera, 34, is lucky to be walking. A bullet ripped through his left hamstring. Centimetres either way and his career would have been over. Samaraweera, who averages a world-class 54.25 from 63 Tests, still has the bullet.
“I was lying on the floor, in front of Sangakkara, when I got hit,” he recalled later. “I immediately put my head under the seat to protect it from getting hit. My leg was bleeding but survival instincts didn’t allow me to panic.”
Samaraweera and his wife had counselling. He visited a faith healer. He received herbs and a blessing. He said he knew his real blessing was being able to watch his two daughters, aged nine and four, grow up. “Today I decide not to think about the past and to try and be positive,” he said.
Bayliss, a former New South Wales player and coach, will return to Australia following the World Cup, after four years as Sri Lanka’s coach.