The Bangladesh cricket team escaped unhurt despite being in close vicinity of a shooting attack on a mosque here but its ongoing tour of New Zealand was called off owing to the "unprecedented act of violence" in which 49 people were killed.
The attack took place on two mosques in the city and also injured more than 20 people, according to the police. The Bangladesh team, which was about to enter the the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Hagley Park to offer prayers, escaped unscathed but the situation led to the authorities calling off the third and final Test match starting Saturday. The match was the tour finale for the visitors. "We are very thankful that we weren't caught in the crossfire, but what we saw was straight out of a movie scene. We could see bloodstained people staggering out of the mosque," Bangladesh team manager Khaled Mashud told reporters.
"Maybe for about eight-ten minutes, we were all inside the bus and were sitting with our heads bowed, just in case someone fires at us," he added. The team's Indian Performance analyst Shrinivas Chandrasekeran, a Mumbai-based computer-engineer-turned-cricket-analyst, was there in the bus at the time of the incident. The side's spin consultant Sunil Joshi, also an Indian, was however at the team hotel. "We couldn't react initially. In such a horror situation, your brain automatically freezes as you are terrified. That's exactly what happened to all of us," Chandrasekaran, who has been with the team for the past one year, told PTI.
On being contacted, Joshi said, "I am safe, I will be back in India on Wednesday next week. I cannot talk on the incident right now." New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the incident marked "one of New Zealand's darkest days" "It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack," Ardern said. Bangladesh's senior opener Tamim Iqbal said it was a frightening experience for the team. "...please keep us in your prayers," he tweeted. Ardern issued a strong statement condemning the attack.
"This is significant and I can tell you now this is and will be one of New Zealand's darkest days. I would describe it as an unprecedented act of violence, an act that has absolutely no place in New Zealand. This is not who we are," she said. "Certainly it has occurred at a place where people should have been expressing their religious freedom, where they should have been in a safe environment, and they have not been today. There is no place in New Zealand for such extreme acts of unprecedented violence.