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March 27, 2009
The healing continues. After a painful month of reflection and rehabilitation, Sri Lanka's cricketers are excitedly awaiting the commencement of the IPL, and the opportunity to restore a degree of normalcy to lives upturned by the Lahore terror attacks.
Since returning home to Sri Lanka on March 3, just hours after gunmen had opened fire on their bus outside Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium, the Sri Lankans have spent much of their time recovering from wounds both physical and emotional. The visible signs of the attack are beginning to fade - Thilan Samaraweera was the last of the players to be discharged from hospital last week - but the psychological scars will take far longer to mend.
The IPL, Kumar Sangakkara argues, represents an important step in the recovery process. When Sri Lanka's IPL-contracted cricketers board a plane to South Africa in the coming weeks - the first time many of them will have left home since arriving from Pakistan - Sangakkara believe the familiar routine of life on the professional cricketing circuit will prove comforting after this darkest of months.
"It has been a difficult few weeks for all of us," said Sangakkara, who scored 320 runs for the King's XI Punjab in last year's IPL. "Most of us are ready and looking forward to returning to cricket. The memories of what happened will last a long time, but with cricket comes a sense of normalcy and that old feeling of going out and doing your job. It will be nice to go abroad again and fully integrate with the cricket fraternity and get back to our daily routine.
"It has not been easy for us to deal with the events of Lahore. We are coming to terms with what happened, and it might take longer for some than others. The memories will never entirely go away. But the opportunity to again feel some normalcy will be nice, and I know there is excitement here from the guys who are going to the IPL."
The majority of Sri Lanka's cricketers have returned to the field in the past week to participate in the island's inter-provincial Twenty20 competition; an ideal warm-up for the IPL. Sangakkara has played for Kandurata, while Ajantha Mendis, who recently extended his contract with the Kolkata Knight Riders, has resumed his wizardry with Wayamba.
Mendis' bid to play in the IPL is nothing short of remarkable. Barely two weeks ago, the 24-year-old was recovering in hospital after surgery to remove shrapnel from his head and back - a procedure that required 17 stitches. On Thursday, he was back on the field and immediately in the wickets, helping steer Wayamba to victory over the Schools Invitational XI.
"I am committed to playing in the IPL and I want to be match fit," Mends said through his agent, Roshan Abeysinghe. "It has been a very difficult time. There has been a lot of pain. But it is nice to be back on the field again and I am looking forward to soon joining my franchise in South Africa."
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