Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Thursday | March 5, 2009
Home : Sport
Sri Lanka experience helped to save team
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP):

Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene says living in a country troubled by civil war helped save his team as it came under fire from gunmen in Pakistan.

The Sri Lankan team returned on a special charter flight early yesterday to the capital Colombo, where the exhausted-looking players had an emotional private reunion with their families.

Batsman Thilan Samaraweera was seen being taken from the airport to a hospital in Colombo.

Jayawardene said Tuesday's attack in Lahore should prompt cricket authorities to put player security higher on the list of criteria in assessing the viability of tours.

"This is something for all of us to realise, whoever made all these decisions ... that we need to think more than cricket," said Jayawardene.

"It's about families, livelihoods, kids, wives, parents everybody. We need to look at the bigger picture and hopefully in the future we can make right decisions looking at all these and not just the small things."

At least one dozen men ambushed the Sri Lanka team with rifles, grenades and rocket launchers, converging on the squad's convoy as it drove near Gaddafi Stadium on its way to play the third day of the second Test against Pakistan.

Even though the bus was peppered with 25 bullet holes, none of the players was killed. Seven players and a coach sustained injuries, none life-threatening, but six policemen and a driver died.

Nothing new

"We have been brought up in a background of terrorist activities," Jayawardene told reporters at the airport. "We are used to hearing, seeing these things. Firing, bombings. So we ducked under our seats when the firing began. It was like natural instinct.

"We were all tucked under the seats," said Jayawardene, who was cut on the foot by debris. "Our guys were getting hurt and screaming but we couldn't help each other. We were just hoping that we will not get hit.

"None of us thought that we would come alive out of the situation.

"We had no defense in our system, we just hoped that we won't get hit. There were bullets flying all over the place, apparently there was mortar attack which luckily missed the bus," said Jayawardene.

Batsman Tharanga Paranavitana came closest to a serious injury, with a bullet brushing his chest.

Veteran Sri Lanka spinner Muttiah Muralitharan told reporters on his return to Colombo that he feared for his life during the attack.

"All the while bullets were being sprayed at our bus, people around me were shouting," he said. "I am glad to be back."

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