Published:  12:37 AM, 16 March 2019

Tigers set to return home today after New Zealand attack

Third Test called off

Tigers set to return home today after New Zealand attack Cricketers after avoiding the shooting (left); Armed force in the area of mosque (right). -Reuters

The third Test between New Zealand and Bangladesh in Christchurch has been called off following a shooting attack in the city on Friday, 15 March.

At least one gunman killed 49 people and wounded more than 20 during Friday prayers at two New Zealand mosques in the country's worst ever mass shooting which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern condemned as "a terrorist attack".Bangladesh cricket team is all set to fly for Bangladesh on Saturday, Khaled Mashud, team manager of Bangladesh confirmed on Friday. 

The team were on a bus that was approaching the Al Noor mosque 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 Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) released a statement, confirming their players were back at the team hotel. "All members of the Bangladesh cricket team in Christchurch, New Zealand are safely back in the hotel following the incident of shooting in the city."The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) is in constant contact with the players and team management and also with New Zealand cricket."

"This was a kind of accident that we would never expect nor want in any part of the world," Khaled Mashud, the team manager said. "We are very lucky because we had a number of us, about 17 of us, in the bus. Soumya Sarkar was also there, and we were all heading to the mosque for prayers.

Only two of the players [Liton Das and Nayeem Hasan, as well as Sunil Joshi, the spin-bowling coach] had stayed back in the hotel, and rest of the squad had gone there. We were very close to the mosque, and we could see from the bus." "We must have been about 50 yards from the mosque."

Mashud expressed, "We are very thankful that we weren't caught in the crossfire, but what we saw was straight out of a movie scene. We could see bloodstained people staggering out of the mosque"

The International Cricket Council (ICC) led the cricketing world in 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.

The decision to call off the match has been supported by David Richardson, the ICC chief executive. "Our thoughts and sincere condolences go out to the families and friends of those affected by this horrendous incident in Christchurch," he said. 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.  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."

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 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".

"Arrangements are being made for the return of the Bangladesh team home as soon as possible," NZC said in a statement. "Both teams are deeply affected," White said. "As a country, we'll have to look at security of visiting teams. It seemed to be a safe haven. I'm sure all of New Zealand will take a look at their approach."

 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.  "Pak suffered same situation years back n can feel n relate to the pain n misery," Pakistan's information minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Twitter.

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 Christchurch Test was the third of the series. New Zealand won the first two Tests in Hamilton and Wellington.

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