Shootout in Lahore March 3, 2009

Pakistan team had narrow escape - Younis

Cricinfo staff


Younis Khan: "Thank God we decided to leave our hotel five minutes after the Sri Lankans" © AFP
 

Younis Khan, the Pakistan captain, has said his team escaped the terrorist strike on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore on Tuesday because the teams didn't travel together.

Six security men and two civilians were killed, and five Sri Lankan cricketers were injured in the attack, which took place when the Sri Lankan team was on its way to the Gaddafi Stadium for the third day of the second Test. "Thank God we decided to leave our hotel five minutes after the Sri Lankans," he said. "God forbid, had both buses been moving together it could have been catastrophic.

"This incident was very draining emotionally and we have been trying to keep our players calm."

Younis also said he had apologised to the Sri Lankan players on behalf of the Pakistani people. "I talked with Ajantha Mendis, Muttiah Muralitharan, Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera after the incident and told them the entire nation was sorry for what had happened," he said. "They took the incident in their stride and didn't express any unhappiness with the people of Pakistan or the game."

Teams have been wary of touring Pakistan in the recent past because of the troubled security situation, and this attack has raised questions over the country's status as an international sporting venue. "There is no doubt it is going to be very difficult to convince teams to tour Pakistan," Younis said. "Even if some team comes we will have to take extraordinary security measures."

Sri Lanka's visit was the first time a team had toured Pakistan for a Test series in more than a year. Wasim Akram, the former Pakistan captain, said Pakistan hosting the World Cup in 2011 was now a "distant dream". "How do you expect a foreign team to come to Pakistan now? We took pride in hosting our guests," Akram told ESPN Star. "This image has taken a beating. It's sad for Pakistan."

Waqar Younis, Akram's bowling partner, said the chances of foreign teams coming to Pakistan were now remote. "We have to agree with whatever the ICC decides," he said.

Reg Dickason, the security consultant contracted by the ECB and CA, said he had long feared that terrorists in Pakistan would target cricketers. "A lot of the concerns we raised during the Champions Trophy have unfortunately come home to roost," Dickason told Cricinfo. "The notion of sporting teams being a protected species was held by many, but it was not a view that we shared, unfortunately.

"There were a number of factors we considered, including the global exposure an attack on an international sporting team could have. (Tours of Pakistan) are highly unlikely for the forseeable future given the present environment. How could you go there now? The Australians were supposed to have played there in March. This, unfortunately, is the realisation of many of the things we thought, and it is a terrible way to find out."

Geoff Lawson, who served as Pakistan coach until last October, feared the team would suffer from being cast into a nomadic existence. "Cricket won't be played in Pakistan for the foreseeable future," Lawson said. "Pakistan look like they will become a wandering cricket team now. They will be playing at neutral venues, because you can guarantee that there won't be games there [at home]. Obviously, there is no chance of the Champions Trophy or the World Cup going ahead there."