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Former ICC Umpire, Simon Taufel was one of the umpires who were caught in the cross fire during the Sri Lankan Team Bus attacks in 2009. The incident affected him more mentally than physically.
According to him, the morning started normally just like the previous two days of the Test match. But he did find something unusual about that day.
"“The only thing that really was different as we left for the ground and when we went, was the fact that both the teams weren’t in the same convoy. Pakistan team bus wasn’t ready, so the decision was made by others in our security convoy to leave without them and they would follow.”" - Simon Taufel, Former Cricket Umpire
Once they reached halfway to the stadium, the terrorist started firing on their buses. They opened fire on the buses, breaking all the windows and glasses. Simon said that initially the bullets sounded like firecrackers.
"“We’ve come around liberty roundabout on our way to Gaddafi stadium and we sought of gone about maybe halfway through the roundabout starting to turn right towards our exit and there were pops that were going off. Basically, like firecrackers if you like.”" - Simon Taufel
“It was Nadeem Ghauri who said everybody get down, get down as low as you can and so, we did. Not initially but we thought this was strange and when he repeated that request, we got down. And then things just started to sort off ding into our vehicle and the window started to explode and those sorts of things,” Simon said.
“Obviously when you are down on the ground like a fatal position in a minibus and things like that are happening, you are not going to stick your head up and you know try to see what's going on. So, it was very much a very weird experience of the unknown. I have never been in that situation before obviously and I hope that we are never in that position again,” he added.
Escaping from that crossfire was the thing that scared Simon the most. The driver of their bus was shot and killed at the roundabout. It was a policemen who then drove their bus to the stadium. The journey from the roundabout to stadium was not easy, shares Simon.
"“I didn’t realise at the time that our driver had been shot and killed. He was still in the front seat of the vehicle and at some point, there was a policeman who came along and took Zafir’s (Driver) body out of the vehicle and drive us to the ground.”" - Simon Taufel
“And I remember him driving at a really high speed and we actually reached another checkpoint just before we got to the stadium and at that point, I could see that, I could feel that he wasn't going to stop,” said Simon.
“The biggest fear that I had at that point was there might have been a thought that they (Policemen) thought that we were the terrorist and we were the bad guys and they were actually going to do us some further harm but obviously that didn't happen,” he added.
Simon shared his worst memory of the incident which also is a life long regret for him. Upon reaching the stadium, he had to step over the body of his colleague Hasan Raza who was shot and was battling for his life.
“When we got to the stadium, we actually weren't allowed to go inside the ground or even inside the gate like the Sri Lankan team bus had got inside, we had to stop outside,” he added.
"“And one of my worst memories from that incident that I do recall, was having to step over the body of Hasan Raza who had been shot twice in the stomach and the amount of blood that he had lost that Chris Broad was trying to stop from coming out so much”" - Simon Taufel
"We had white travel shirts going to the game at that stage and Hasan Raza’s shirt was just all red. I remember having to step over his body to get out of the vehicle and it’s a moment I regret till today because in some ways I was putting my safety and concern for my welfare ahead of his,” he said.
“I really regret that until this day where I should have said hang on, no I have got to help him out. But we were convinced at the time we were asked to exit the vehicle that don't worry about Hasan we'll take care of him,” he added.
After reaching the umpire’s changing room, Simon recalls going down to the Sri Lankan room to find out how they were doing. He believes that there was a sense of calmness in their dressing room because they were used to unrest, because of growing up in such environments in Sri Lanka.
“We got inside the umpire's change room and I remember this feeling of, lots of feelings, relief, frustration, excitement in some way, shock and horror,” Simon said.
"“I then recall going down to the Sri Lankan room to find out how they were doing and again, it was a bit of a case of medical attention to some of their players. But my impression of how they responded was that they seem to take it relatively in their stride. There was a sense of calmness in their dressing room.”" - Simon Taufel
“I had a chat with Murali and few other players and I suppose my take on that was that obviously growing up in a lot of environment’s in their own country where they were used to unrest and these sorts of things happening from time to time is as unfortunate as it is,” he said.
“I suppose maybe there was sense of that they were used to it, but I am not sure how you ever get used to something like that. It was very important I thought to see how they were and to make sure we offered some support to them,” he added.
Finally, Simon narrated the final phase of the incident, which was their evacuation from the stadium. The officials were put in a couple of different vehicles while the Sri Lankan team was air lifted by a helicopter.
“I reckon we would have been there for about an hour because it was the case of what to do next and obviously this was new territory for a lot of people,” Simon said.
"“We were put in couple of different vehicles and taken back to the hotel which was a bit different to how the Sri Lankans were extracted from the ground and how they left the stadium, by helicopter.” " - Simon Taufel
“And I remember my feelings going through the streets of Lahore. It was a very eerie feeling about looking behind shadows and looking behind buildings and trees and feeling very uncomfortable and afraid to go back to the hotel,” said Simon.
“And then finally to check out, try to find my laundry, settle my bill, find my passport, answer a phone call from the Australian Consulate to make sure that we are ok,” he concluded.
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