WELLINGTON – The Bangladesh cricket team narrowly avoided being caught up in a shooting at a mosque in Christchurch on Friday that left 40 dead and forced the cancellation of a test match against hosts New Zealand.
The team were on a bus that was approaching the Al Noor mosque for Friday prayers on the eve of the third test at nearby Hagley Oval when the shooting began.
Mario Villavarayen, the team’s strength and conditioning coach, said it had been a close call.
“They were on the bus, which was just pulling up to the mosque when the shooting begun,” he told Reuters via Twitter.
“They are at the ground, they are shaken but good.”
The team were pictured on social media walking back through Hagley Park to the cricket ground and a BCB spokesman later told Reuters the team were in lockdown at their hotel.
“All our players are now safe in their hotel which has been cordoned off,” the spokesman said. “We have advised the players not to step out.
“Importantly, our players are safe.”
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said 40 people had been killed and more than 20 were in a critical condition after the attacks on two mosques in the city on Friday, the country’s worst mass shooting.
New Zealand Cricket said they had chosen to cancel the test, which was the final match of the tour, after discussions with the Bangladesh board.
“I spoke to my counterpart in Bangladesh and we agree it’s inappropriate to play cricket at this time,” chief executive David White told TVNZ.
“It’s quite unbelievable really. We are shocked.”
White said he had spoken to the liaison officer with the Bangladesh team and the players were “shocked”.
Opening batsman Tamim Iqbal said on Twitter the experience had been “frightening”.
“Entire team got saved from active shooters!!! Frightening experience and please keep us in your prayers,” he wrote.
Mushfiqur Rahim, who missed the first two tests through injury, said the team had been fortunate to avoid the shooting.
“we r extremely lucky,” Mushfiqur said. “…never want to see this things happen again….pray for us.”
“SHOCKED AND APPALLED”
Violent crime is extremely rare in New Zealand and White said Friday’s incident would “greatly affect” the country.
“It’s obviously early days in a fairly fluid situation (but) it’s something that we as New Zealanders have to look at as well,” he said.
“We are shocked and appalled as I’m sure all New Zealanders are.”
Cricket teams have previously abandoned tours because of violent attacks but most had been in South Asia, including Bangladesh which Australia decided against touring in 2015 because of security fears.
Sri Lanka’s team bus was attacked by gunmen in Lahore during their tour of Pakistan in 2009. Six members of the team were wounded, while six security personnel and two civilians were killed.
Pakistan still host nearly all of their international matches in the United Arab Emirates due to ongoing security concerns.
New Zealand abandoned their 1987 tour of Sri Lanka following a bombing near their hotel in Colombo in which more than 100 people were killed.
They also abandoned a tour of Pakistan in May 2002 following a suicide bombing outside their hotel in Karachi.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) released a statement on Friday sending their condolences to the families and friends of those affected by the “horrendous incident in Christchurch”.
“Both teams, staff and match officials are safe and the ICC fully supports the decision to cancel the test match,” chief executive David Richardson said. (Reuters)