New Zealand visit to Pakistan and Karachi bombing: The story of the Sheraton hotel blast narrated by Rashid Latif, Shoaib Akhtar, and Mark Richardson.
19 years ago today, on the morning of May 8, the Pakistan and New Zealand cricketers staying at the Pearl Continental Hotel in Karachi had nothing on their minds but the second Test match which started at the National Stadium shortly after. Was about to happen.
Everyone was excited about it. Some players were having breakfast. Some were getting ready in their rooms. But no one would have thought that in the next few moments they would face a heartbreaking situation.
The bus carrying the New Zealand cricketers to the stadium was parked when suddenly there was a loud explosion on the road to the Sheraton Hotel in front of their hotel. It was a car bomb targeting French engineers who boarded a bus from the Sheraton Hotel.
The French engineer had come to Pakistan to build the Augusta submarine and the blast killed 17 people, including 11 French engineers.
Shortly after the blast, New Zealand cricketers panicked as they sat in front of the hotel’s swimming pool, followed by ICC match referee Mike Proctor, Pakistan Cricket Board director Brigadier (retd) Munawar Rana, and New Zealand team manager Jeff. Crowe formally announced the end of the visit at an emergency press conference.
It was a horrible situation for Pakistan and New Zealand cricketers and they still shudder to recount the incident.
‘I saw the bus wrapped in flames going up’
Pakistani wicketkeeper-batsman Rashid Latif says he woke up late on the morning of the blast.
“After taking a bath, I was reciting the qadha of Fajr when a loud explosion took place as I was saluting. My room was on the first floor. I saw the bus wrapped in flames going up. The windows in my room were broken. The doors to our rooms were locked. I could hardly open the door. The door of Shoaib Akhtar’s room was not opening in front of me. I and the security personnel there opened the door with the markers and took them out.
‘Destruction scene and world of fear’
In this series, the captain of the Pakistani cricket team, Waqar Yunus, describing the incident, says that the players became very frightened after the blast.
“All the elevators were closed and we had to go down the stairs. The hotel lobby was in ruins. Glass was scattered everywhere and nothing was safe. It was as if the building would collapse at any moment. At that time no one understood what had happened. Even after such a long time today, when we remember this incident, the body runs like lightning.
No worries, the Test match will start after lunchtime ‘
This is how fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar remembers the incident.
He said that he was sitting on the sofa when suddenly he saw fire behind a window curtain and there was such a loud noise that he felt my eardrums burst. Because of this incident, I still can’t hear right from the right ear.
Shoaib Akhtar says: ‘Rashid Latif broke down the door of my room and took me out. I did not understand what happened. Has anyone attacked? All I could do was forget my passport and go out. There was chaos in the corridor. Someone was running here, someone on the other side. When we all came down, I saw New Zealand cricketers sitting and crying. They looked very scared.
Shoaib Akhtar said that he was shocked at the time by a PCB official who was saying that there was nothing to worry about. The test match will start after lunchtime.
Shoaib Akhtar says: “This incident had such a profound effect on me that I used to feel scared when I came to Karachi even though I had seen strikes and firing in Karachi. In those days, I used to walk from Al-Karam Square to the National Stadium, but I had never seen a bomb blast in my life.
“If the blast had happened five minutes later, we would have been hit.”
The New Zealand team also included opener Mark Richardson. He told BBC Urdu in an interview that his bus was leaving for the stadium five minutes later.
“If the explosion had happened five minutes later, you would think we would be directly affected.”
Mark Richardson says: ‘I was in my room and ready to go downstairs when it exploded and the glass door came down. Fortunately, I was safe.
Mark Richardson says: ‘The tour went on without a hitch. We even went out of our hotel to eat, but this one incident changed everything. It was heartbreaking.
“Even if it hadn’t been for the bombing, we wouldn’t have survived Shoaib Akhtar, who was bowling well on this tour,” said Mark Richardson.
It may be recalled that in the first Test played in Lahore, Pakistan defeated Stephen Fleming’s New Zealand team by an innings and 324 runs, which is the fifth-biggest victory in the history of Test cricket.
In this match, Inzamam-ul-Haq played brilliant innings of 329 runs while Shoaib Akhtar took six wickets for just 11 runs and bowled out New Zealand for only 73 runs in the first innings.
‘There was no question of continuing the tour’
Former director of the Pakistan Cricket Board, Brigadier Munawar Rana, told the BBC: “After this incident, we were embarrassed by the Western media and the ICC, although the board did not leave any stone unturned in its security arrangements. He was supervising it himself.
“I remember talking to New Zealand Cricket Board chief executive Martin Snyder on the phone immediately after the incident and telling him that the incident had nothing to do with cricket, that someone else was the target of the attack. But at the same time, I said that this incident is so big and has happened in front of all the cricketers so if you want to end this tour we will not mind.
Munawar Rana dismisses the impression that shortly after the incident, ICC match referee Mike Proctor was quick to announce the end of the tour at a press conference.
He says that if the teams had reached the National Stadium and the match had started after the toss and the incident had taken place, then perhaps it would have been easier for the New Zealanders to assure them that they were safe.
He said that he doesn’t think the New Zealand team would have been willing to play because the incident had a profound effect.”
Brigadier Munawar Rana denies that the Pakistan Cricket Board had intelligence reports that there could be terrorism in Karachi, so the second Test match should be held in Lahore instead of Karachi.
‘India supported us a lot at that time
Lt. Gen. Tauqeer Zia was the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board at the time of the incident.
Talking to the BBC about the impact of the incident on Pakistani cricket, he said that the incident had a profound effect as New Zealand later refused to come and play in Pakistan and if New Zealand refused. If it did, then of course it would have an effect on other white countries as well, but on this occasion, India gave great support to Pakistan.
“From the platform of the Asian Cricket Council, these countries were made to believe that if they do not come and play in Pakistan, then the Asian teams will not go and play in their countries.
“Obviously no country wanted to upset India. It is as a result of this pressure that the New Zealand team came to Pakistan the following year to play a series of five ODIs.
Lt. Gen. Tauqeer Zia says it is true that the New Zealand team was not the target in the incident but the fact is that the terrorist incident took place in our country and in a place where both teams stayed.
It was the biggest fear for the New Zealand players that we are white too. If the French engineers were attacked today, it could happen to us tomorrow.”
It should be noted that after the New Zealand team, the Australian cricket team was also scheduled to visit Pakistan in 2002, but it refused to come to Pakistan and the series was played in the United Arab Emirates.
‘Unfortunately in pursuit of New Zealand’
Although the New Zealand cricket team has fortunately never been the target of a direct terrorist attack, the irony of fate is that their cricket has been affected by such incidents in front of their eyes. Has happened
Even before the Karachi incident, he had to leave Sri Lanka unfinished in 1987 when a bomb exploded near the Team Hotel in Colombo before the second Test match, killing more than 100 people. And the New Zealand team had no choice but to return home immediately
Sri Lanka had not hosted an international match for five years after the incident and when international cricket was restored in 1992, New Zealand was the only team to visit Sri Lanka.
But luckily for the tour, another incident of terrorism took place, as a result of which, although the New Zealand team continued its tour, five of its players refused to continue the tour and returned home.
The New Zealand cricket team left for Pakistan in September 2001 to play a three-Test series and had just arrived in Singapore when the 9/11 incident took place, which ended the tour and the team returned home. Returned.
New Zealand cricket officials had strong reservations about the 9/11 incident, especially in Peshawar, where the first Test was to be played.