March 21st, 2019

Bangladesh cricketers avoid mosque shooting; match scrapped


By Steve McMorran, The Associated Press on March 14, 2019.

A body lies on the footpath outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. A witness says many people have been killed in a mass shooting at a mosque in the New Zealand city of Christchurch. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand – An international cricket match between New Zealand and Bangladesh has been cancelled after players from the visiting team narrowly avoided a mass shooting at a mosque in Christchurch on Friday.

New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White said there had been a “joint decision” to call off the third test, which had been scheduled to start Saturday in Christchurch.

“On behalf of New Zealand Cricket heartfelt condolences to those affected,” White said. “I’ve spoken to my counterpart at Bangladesh cricket – we agree it’s inappropriate to play cricket at this time.

“Both teams are deeply affected.”

Earlier, members of the Bangladesh cricket team described on social media how they narrowly avoided the mosque shooting on New Zealand’s South Island.

Players and members of the team’s coaching staff were reportedly on their bus, approaching the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Hagley Park when the shooting started.

Opening batsman Tamim Iqbal tweeted: “entire team got saved from active shooters. Frightening experience and please keep us in your prayers.”

Performance analyst Shrinivas Chandrasekeran, also on Twitter, posted: “Just escaped active shooters. Heartbeats pumping badly and panic everywhere.”

Player Mushfiqur Rahim posted “Alhamdulillah Allah save us today while shooting in Christchurch in the mosque. We (were) extremely lucky … never want to see this things happen again … pray for us.”

Mario Villavarayen, a strength and conditioning coach with the Bangladesh team, told New Zealand media the players did not see the shooter but heard shots. He said they were shaken but unhurt.

“I spoke to one of them shortly after,” Vllavarayen said. “They were at the ground and just started running. The coaching staff were all at the hotel.”

New Zealand Cricket said all players and support staff were “safe and accounted for,” and a Bangladesh team spokesman later said all players had returned to the team hotel.

The Bangladesh players reportedly left the bus and fled on foot to nearby Hagley Oval, where the test match against New Zealand had been scheduled to be played.

Mohammad Islam, a journalist travelling with the Bangladesh team, earlier said he believed the players would leave New Zealand as soon as possible.

“I don’t think they’re in a mental state to play cricket at all,” he told Fairfax Media. “I think they want to go back home as soon as possible. I’m speaking from experience. I’m speaking from what I’ve heard.”

Islam said he was contacted by one of the players as the shooting was taking place and he raced towards the scene.

He said the players were in “terrible and mental” distress.

“They were just outside the mosque about to get off from the bus and go into the mosque when they heard shooting and a lot of people running out and they saw someone wounded in front of them,” Islam said. “And seeing that, they didn’t get off the bus. About 10 minutes later they ran out of the bus and ran through Hagley Park and into the Hagley Oval.”

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