Sunil Joshi, the spin bowling coach of the Bangladesh cricket team is glad to be back home with his family in Bengaluru. "Your home is the safest place to be in," he told DNA on Monday.
After about a day and a half of going through the horrifying experience when his players had a narrow escape from the terror attack in the Christchurch mosque on Friday, Joshi managed to advance his tickets and return home while the rest of his team and coaching staff departed New Zealand in batches and reach the safer confines of their homes.
"Very happy to be home with my family. It will take time for us to come out of it (shooting experience)," said Joshi.At the time of the attack, Joshi was not in the team bus that was on its way from the Hagley Oval, venue of the scheduled third Test in Christchurch, to the mosque that was attacked on Friday afternoon. The match was to begin on Saturday but has since been cancelled after the shooting.
He said, "That fateful day, we all were supposed to go for lunch at the stadium and then begin our practice. For some reason, I decided not to go to the stadium and stayed back at the team hotel along with two players Liton Das and Nayeem Hasan, strength and conditioning coach Mario Villavarayan and fielding coach Ryan Cook.
"Suddenly, I got a call from the team manager (Khaled Mashud) at around 1.20 pm to inform me about the shooting incident and that I should alert the remaining support staff and the players to not step out of the hotel till the team returned," Joshi recalled.
Shooting and aftermath
Joshi said he and others in Christchurch panicked when he got the call from Mashud.
"The team bus was not moving on the road. The players got down and started to walk through the park towards the Hagley Oval. For us, staying at the hotel, it was panic all over. The hotel we were staying was about 10 minutes drive from the Hagley Oval. You had to walk through a park, cross the road and there was the mosque," he said.
"The mosque was on the right hand side of the bus. The bus would not move. The players saw this incident happen right in front of their eyes. There was a lady who came from the mosque bleeding and told the team not to come towards the mosque as the shooter was active there," Joshi said.
Once back in the hotel, the players were so horrified that they were not ready to go to their rooms, said the 48-year-old former India left-arm spinner.
"The players were petrified once they came to the hotel and inconsolable the whole night. We were trying to pacify them. They were not ready to go to their rooms," says Joshi.
He said that the incident brought the team closer than ever before. "The bond has become very strong now," he said adding that the players and support staff were in constant touch even after returning to their homes.
Delay saved team
While thanking the Almighty for keeping him back in the team hotel that afternoon, Joshi also said that it was the act of God that the Bangladesh team also missed being at the mosque when the incident happened.
"Captain Mahmudullah was to finish his customary pre-match press conference at 12.45pm and then the team was to head for the mosque for the Friday prayers. But Mahmudullah’s press conference got delayed, which I believe is a message sent by God to not be going to the mosque.
"They were to reach the mosque well past 1pm. I even cannot imagine what would have happened if the press conference finished on time and the team went to the mosque for the prayers," said the assistant general manager of Canara Bank.
Still to recover from the shock, Joshi said that while he was physically fine, he was mentally affected by the incident in Christchurch.
While efforts were being made to reschedule the tickets and arrange for the team and the support staff to go home early, Joshi had the Indian High Commissioner in New Zealand, Sanjiv Kohli to thank for.
Kohli, on his part, also wrote a personal mail to Joshi asking his well-being after the latter’s departure from Christchurch.
"Hope you have reached back home safely. It was our pleasure to have been of assistance. We were going through a very challenging period that time and are indeed grateful to our community here for coming forward unitedly to assist fellow countrymen," Kohli wrote to Joshi on Monday.
With the Bangladesh cricket team back home, they will have a well-deserved break before reassembling for the tour of Ireland and then the World Cup next month.
"The shooting has proved to be a huge dent for the team. The horrifying experience will remain for sometime as it happened in front of their eyes. It has left every player and support staff completely shaken.
"It will take time to come over it. Time is the healer. The break is good for the players and coaches to be back with their families.
"It is very important for the coaches and the players to get back to the families. I am glad to be seeing my family as I am talking."