The Bangladesh cricket team arrived near the Masjid Al Noor in Christchurch five minutes late, and that saved their lives, according to Srinivas C. Chandrashekharan, the team’s video analyst.
A press conference being addressed by Bangladesh captain Mahmudullah was delayed by five minutes, so the team dispersed late. Seventeen members of the team and support staff decided to board a bus and offer prayers at the mosque before heading for lunch. The team was to reconvene for practice later in the afternoon, a day before its scheduled third Test against the Kiwis. The tour has now been cancelled.
Chandrashekharan, a software engineer from Mumbai who is employed by the Bangladesh Cricket Board, decided to accompany the team on the bus since it would head to the Hagley Oval after prayers. India’s former left-arm spinner Sunil Joshi, who is Bangladesh’s spin bowling consultant, was also in Christchurch with the team, and confirmed the team had reached its hotel safely and planned to take a flight home as soon as possible.
Srinivas spoke to ThePrint over the phone from Christchurch, recounting the horrific ordeal. Among the first to tweet from the location, Srinivas said all they saw was bloodshed.
Here’s his eyewitness account of the terror attack.
‘Blood-curdling 8-10 minutes’
“The team plan was that a few of them decided to go to the mosque, which is close to the ground. We planned the latter half of the day in such a way that those who wanted to have lunch, they would do so, and others would finish their prayers and then join us at the ground at 3 pm.
Actually, the captain had just finished a press conference, which had been delayed. I decided to go to the mosque with the other team members, and later, we all could assemble at the grounds.
Just as we were approaching the mosque, we realised we were right next to where the shooting actually happened. Had we been there five minutes earlier, most of the team would have been inside the mosque and we would have all been in the firing line.
We saw one woman who was walking fall down. At first, we thought she had fainted, but then after five seconds, we heard continuous firing from a gun. We even tried to go down and help the lady, but the firing continued and we retreated into the bus.
People were screaming ‘they are firing’ and there was blood all around. It is then that it dawned on us that this was an attack.
The panic started spreading, and we saw around 20 people were running out. We could hear a lot of gunshots being fired.
We were in the bus and we too panicked and asked the driver if we could leave the area, he told us the only way out was through the mosque, and that was extremely risky for us.
We all lay flat on the floor of the bus, we did not move until the shooting stopped. The gun shots went on and on, and we had no idea what was happening for close to eight minutes.
In about eight to 10 minutes, the police cordoned off the area and we took just took the back exit of the bus and rushed into the nearby park and ran towards the cricket ground. On our way, we saw so many people who were crying, blood spattered all over, but we were just plain lucky.
In those eight to 10 minutes, we did not see the shooter. But we tried to peek through the windows and see what was happening. It was blood-curdling; we saw people running all around crying for help.
We all were in a state of panic and somehow wanted to reach a safe place. We don’t know how we kept our composure, it was very difficult. We have come out unscathed, but it was terrifying.”