I still get flashbacks of Lahore attack: Jayawardene
London: Former Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene said the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in 2009 still haunts him.
In March 2009, the Sri Lankan team was attacked by masked gunmen on their way to the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. Five cricketers, including Jayawardene and his deputy Kumar Sangakkara, received minor injuries. Ajantha Mendis, Thilan Samaraweera and Tharanga Paravitarana were also injured in the attack which killed six security men and two civilians.
Recalling the incident, that made Pakistan a no-go zone for international teams, Jayawardene said it still gives him nightmares.
"I still get flashbacks. At first, the guys were saying, `Why would anyone let off crackers at eight in the morning?` But then someone shouted: `No, they`re shooting at us - get down,`" Jayawardene was quoted as saying in The Guardian.
Jayawardene said when the bullets were flying thick and fast, he thought we would not live.
"Definitely. Two or three times, lying on the floor, I thought, `There is no way we`re going to get through this.` There was no talking - just screaming and shouting. Whenever anyone got hit by shrapnel they would scream. We were very, very lucky to be alive at the end of it," he said.
"We were very angry when we got off the bus and it took us a long time to calm down. We were angry that, as innocent people, we had been placed at such risk. We had no one to protect us. Obviously we can`t forget the five policemen who died trying to save us. We remember them, dearly, but even those men were left to die.
"We know it`s difficult to prevent terrorism but we asked for security and didn`t get it. People died needlessly - and our wives back home were going crazy. They knew seven of our guys were in hospital and they thought some had died," he said.
Jayawardene added that the scars of the attack remained and during the World Cup in India, they mistook sounds of fire crackers as gunshots.
"We were on a bus in India and crackers went off. A couple of guys almost went down because it was the exact noise we`d heard in Pakistan," he said.
Jayawardene also revealed that the death of his younger brother Dhishal at the age of 16, due to cancer, was another incident that affected him and also inspired him to build a 750-bed unit in Maharagama - at Sri Lanka`s only hospital dedicated to cancer patients.
"I was 17 when my brother (Dhishal) died (from a brain tumour). He was 16 and so it was really devastating. He was a great cricketer and my grandfather always says he was better than me. I always carry a photograph of him and it`s been the same every day for 16 years. But as a youngster it made me look at the world differently. We went through the whole scenario for two and a half years of him coming to the UK for treatment. How many people have the chance to come here for an operation? I see many families struggle without this chance and so we now think, `let`s help other people,`" he said.
On the hospital, Jayawardene said: "I started this some time ago and recently we had good news. The government is going to finish the project and we`ll have a really good hospital. I can take little credit - apart from the start when, as a cricketer, you can help create the buzz. But I`ve moved on to other cancer projects because this is close to my heart."