Ahsan Raza, the Pakistan umpire who was shot during the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore on March 3, 2009, has said he "feels complete" now that an international team is playing cricket in Pakistan once again. Raza, who sustained severe injuries to his liver and lungs, is due to be an on-field umpire in the two Twenty20 internationals and the third ODI between Pakistan and Zimbabwe at the Gaddafi Stadium.
The gunmen at Liberty roundabout almost ended Raza's dream to be an on-field international umpire. He was the reserve umpire for the second Test between Pakistan and Sri Lanka in that series and was travelling to the stadium for the third day's play with umpires Simon Taufel, Steve Davis and Nadeem Ghouri, and match referee Chris Broad, when the team bus and the match officials' vehicle came under fire. Two bullets hit his lungs and caused liver damage too, and Raza took nearly six months to walk again.
They needed 20 pints of blood to stabilise Raza's blood pressure, as surgeons operated on his ruptured liver and damaged lungs. He later needed more than 80 stitches on his belly. Only scars remain now as he stands at the very spot of the attack, but Raza says the wounds in the mind will heal only when he stands in an international game at the Gaddafi Stadium.
"Probably I am the most excited person at the moment because my life was incomplete without officiating an international match on my home soil," Raza told ESPNcricinfo. "I cant really express how I am feeling inside. That series back in 2009 was my first as umpire and was just the start of my umpiring career. It was indeed an unfortunate thing to happen.
"I believe that things can happen anytime, anywhere and you can't control them. It was meant to be like that and it just happened. But I never got discouraged. Six years back I was just a reserve umpire and now I am an international on-field umpire at the ICC panel."
Raza, 40, was a wicketkeeper batsman and played 21 first-class matches for various teams in Pakistan. He retired as a player to pursue an umpiring career, but he said he failed basic tests in 2005. He worked through those difficulties and was named reserve umpire for Sri Lanka's tour in 2009, and has now been Pakistan's umpire of the year for the last three years.
"In the last six years I had a drastic change in my life. Those two bullets made me suffer a lot and if you could have seen those 80 odd stiches on my tummy you will feel amazed at how I am standing here," Raza said. "The doctors thought I would not be able to stand as an umpire but my passion for cricket made me stand on my feet again.
"I not only got back on my feet in six months but also started standing in domestic games and after some time I was again a TV umpire for the homes series against New Zealand in UAE. I not only became a successful umpire but also a teacher. I became an educator, teaching the umpires - that is the important thing in my life that make me feel very good, how much I have grown in last few years."
Raza said he remembers every moment of the attack until he went unconscious but is reluctant to talk about it. "It was a very bad day for me and for sports in Pakistan. It not only made me suffer but our cricket has suffered a lot in this time," Raza said. "One incident changes the perception of the entire country but now with Zimbabwe here we have got an opportunity to change the image.
"I have no anger or frustration. I have moved on and I am not afraid. This area where I am standing is the same place the incident happened. After recovering, I have passed it hundreds of time and never felt a sense of fear at all.
"It's an incident we never forget. Every March 3 - Simon, Chris and Steve - we share the life experiences we had in last one year. The worst could have been happened but luckily we are alive and have moved on in our lives. We talk about what good we have done since then with our lives, and I am extremely happy that I am alive and with my family."