Eight years ago in 2009, umpire Ahsan Raza miraculously survived an attack by gunmen on the van carrying match officials to the Gaddafi stadium, just behind the Sri Lankan team bus at the famous Liberty roundabout in Lahore.
On Sunday (October 29), Raza will officiate in the third and final Twenty20 International between Sri Lanka and Pakistan at the same venue. Raza, 42, said he was as relieved as honoured to be umpiring in the match.
“I could not have been alive but I am thankful to the Almighty that I am getting that honour,” Raza told Wisden Pakistan. “I was fourth (reserve) umpire in that fateful Test and now I will be on field, which is a great honour for me.”
Raza hailed the Sri Lankan team’s bravery in returning to Lahore. “The Sri Lankan players have set aside all fears in coming here and their tour will have a great impact on the revival of international cricket in Pakistan because it was their team that was attacked eight years ago,” he felt.
The prime target of the dozen terrorists was the Sri Lankan team, but once the bus dashed off they attacked the officials’ van, killing the driver on the spot. In a brave act, Raza shielded Chris Broad, the match referee, and was hit by a bullet.
Raza had to then undergo emergency surgery to repair a collapsed lung and damaged liver after taking the bullet hit. He remained in intensive care for 26 days and needed two dozen bottles of blood to survive.
“You can’t forget a mishap like that,” reflected Raza. “I had recited Kalma (religious verse) after I was hit by a bullet. How I survived is a miracle and has strengthened my belief in Allah and I learnt that one should never give up in life.”