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Six Hours in Lahore

Mar 13 2009

Dominic Cork

You can tell when something’s had a profound experience on someone. Up until the point I asked Dominic Cork about ‘that day’ in Lahore, we were having a very normal chat. But once he started to speak about the aftermath of the shooting, the conversation became a monologue, with Dominic looking away from me and staring into the middle distance. So I let him tell the story in his own words, with minimum interruption from me.

“We left probably about four or five minutes before what we thought was both buses and we passed the island three or four minutes before the attack happened. I was just coming out of the car at the ground and was just walking to the stadium when I heard one explosion then I heard another explosion – or gunfire – I just thought it was firecrackers going off, as you do.” He pauses. “I was told to get in cover, but I never thought about... that a cricket side... Sri Lanka or Pakistan... or anything like that. But then seeing the Sri Lankan bus really going very quick and the umpires coming a bit later, and seeing cricketers carrying other cricketers with shrapnel wounds and one with a bullet in his knee... And then obviously the devastation of the umpires – the officials.

“It was just a surreal moment – I just remember one of the commentators, Ranjit Fernando, shouting to their physio in Sinhalese ‘what’s happened?’ and I think he swore back to him as in saying ‘we’ve all been bleep shot at’. He looked at me and said ‘they’ve been shot at’ and we both looked at each other and thought surely not... and then obviously the rest was just keeping indoors because these terrorists were still at large. Over the next two hours we really just stayed in the Sri Lankan changing rooms because that was the safest place. There were guys having shrapnel taken out of them; the disbelief, seeing it on TV; Chris Broad, who I’d just been playing golf with two days before – just seeing his face was... I just really couldn’t believe what happened.

“It was a day that I never thought, one, would happen to an international sporting team and two, that I’d be so close to it. It was quite an emotional day. Eventually when I got out of Pakistan about six hours afterwards I was stuck in Dubai for eight hours and I just kept looking at the TV – BBC World, Sky News – and just couldn’t believe that I was nearly right in the middle of it. On the edge of it, anyway.” His voice fades to a mumble but then he reasserts himself. “It was a terrible day which will stay with me for a long time and I hope that it never happens again.”

So how did Dominic get out of Pakistan so quickly?

“I was offered to go on the helicopter with the Sri Lankans but all my stuff was back at the hotel and they couldn’t get into my safe to get my passport for some reason. They said they’d put the number in and it hadn’t opened and up until then I’d being going to the army base with them [the Sri Lankan team]. I just jumped in a car on my own and said I didn’t want any security – I just lay on the back seat and told the driver to take me to the hotel. I ran through security at the hotel, got into my room, locked my room, packed, rang my wife to make sure she was OK and waited for Ten Sports to sort my flights out and they did brilliantly and got me out as soon as they could. But those six hours just felt like six days. It felt like so long although it was done so quickly.”

But where were the Pakistani team when all this was happening?

“The Pakistani team apparently were seven minutes behind. They never got to the ground – their driver had been told to turn round and take the team back to the hotel. So they were spared.” There is a silence which I fill by asking Dominic if he has any theories about why it happened. “I don’t know. I’ve heard all the theories and I don’t know why terrorists would target international cricketers, especially Sri Lanka. That’s what I find even harder, because India pulled out and Sri Lanka volunteered to take their place, and then they target Sri Lanka. It’s a difficult thing to understand why – but one thing that I will say is that they were so lucky to get out. Both the Sri Lankan cricketers and the match officials – we were so lucky that there weren’t any fatalities. We were all very lucky.

“Whatever the theory is, whatever happens, we were lucky people and we have to make sure wherever it is in the world; Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Australia, England – that security needs to be right – not just for the cricket but for all sports people – because they’re going to target them.”

And Dominic’s view on cricket in Pakistan now?

“I think I just heard that they’re moving the Champions Trophy to South Africa – that’s one thing. I think it’s going to be very difficult for Pakistan. I know I feel sorry for the players and sorry for the decent cricket loving nation they are. They love cricket and they’re fanatical and they have some excellent players – and they’ve also got some good people around the Pakistan Cricket Board who really looked after us there. It’s a bleak future; they’re going to have to play a lot of their home Test matches in neutral venues, whether that’s Dubai or Abu Dhabi or England, wherever it is. But they have to do that because they want to keep playing.

“It’s going to be difficult. Whether cricket will ever go back to Pakistan I can’t tell you. But at the moment, I wouldn’t wish to go back there, and that’s just the view of myself. I’d take a lot of persuading about the security for me to go back there. Especially when you’ve got a family – you have to put them first.”

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