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Sri Lankan cricketers return home, wounded rushed to hospital

By P. Karunakharan, IANS,

Colombo : Sri Lanka’s wounded and traumatized cricketers, who braved a well-planned terror attack in Lahore, returned home in the early hours of Wednesday to receive a emotional welcome, as the wounded players were immediately rushed to a local hospital.

Emotionally moved players and the relatives of players hugged each other as the 25-member tour party disembarked from a chartered Sri Lankan Airlines plane at the Bandaranaike International Airport.

Double-centurion Thilan Samaraweera and new opener Tharanga Paranawitharana, who received gunshot injuries in the attack, were the first to be brought out and rushed to the nearby private hospital.

“We sent a special medical team to bring back the players. Most of the wounded players have been dispatched to the hospital,” Sports Minister Gamini Lokuge, who personally received the players at the airport, told reporters there.

“They are not serious, but we sent them to the private hospital based on the advice of the medical team,” he said, while another official said both Samaraweera and Paranwitharana need “further treatment and surgery”.

Limping Sri Lanka’s cricket team captain Mahela Jayawardene looked very tried and shocked, but managed to smile at the reporters and speak a few words, while the new spin sensation Ajantha Mendis was seen walking out with a plaster behind his right ear.

Middle-order batsman and centurion Thilakaratne Dilshan was seen breaking down when he hugged his three-year son and it was the case with every player who unanimously agreed that they narrowly escaped death.

Parents of the new fast bowler Suranga Lakmal hugged their injured son, saying that they have “not had any meal since we heard the news” that their only son was among the six Sri Lankan players injured.

Opening fast bowler Chaminda Vass and Vice-captain Kumar Sangakkara, who was also wounded in Tuesday’s terror attack, told reporters that the players were “relieved to be back home”.

“We cannot think of anything else. It will take some time,” they said.

A team 12 terrorists ambushed and sprayed bullets and fired rocket propelled grenades at the convoy carrying Sri Lankan players to the Lahore Gadafi international stadium to play the third day of the second and last Test against the host Pakistan Tuesday.

Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who returned home after cutting short his state-visit to Nepal Tuesday “unequivocally condemned the cowardly terrorist attack” targeting the Sri Lankan Test cricket team in Lahore, stressing that the team undertook the tour to Pakistan as “ambassadors of goodwill”.