A hail of bullets ripped through our bus’
PUBLISHED: 15:51 04 March 2009 | UPDATED: 10:30 23 August 2010
THERE was open gunfire on the coach, people getting shot, and after that everything was pretty much a blank. This was the horrific description former Kent coach Paul Farbrace first gave to his friend after being ambushed by terrorists in Pakistan on Tu
THERE was open gunfire on the coach, people getting shot, and after that everything was pretty much a blank."
This was the horrific description former Kent coach Paul Farbrace first gave to his friend after being ambushed by terrorists in Pakistan on Tuesday.
As a dozen men attacked Sri Lanka's cricket team with rifles, grenades and rocket launchers Mr Farbrace dived for cover on the team bus and was injured in the crossfire.
The gunfight on the team bus broke out as they arrived for a match in the volatile city of Lahore. The slaughter left at least seven dead and a further seven cricket players, an umpire and assistant coach injured outside the Gaddafi
Simon Willis, 34, who is first-team coach at Kent Cricket Club, spoke to Paul Farbrace two hours after the ambush.
He said: "When I heard about the attack, my first reaction was to try and speak to him to make sure he was okay, because he's not just an old work colleague. I have known Paul for about 20 years and we're very close.
"He was really shaken. He said it had been a terrifying experience. There was open gunfire on the coach, people getting shot, and after that everything was pretty much a blank."
Former Kent wicket-keeper-batsman and academy coach Mr Farbrace was travelling with the Sri Lanka team ahead of the fourth Test against Pakistan when gunmen ambushed the team coach and its accompanying police escort.
Six policemen and a driver were killed in the shooting. Mr Farbrace, who has been assistant coach of the Sri Lankan team for 18 months, suffered a shrapnel wound to the right arm.
In a co-ordinated attack, the assailants ambushed the convoy carrying the squad and match officials at a traffic circle close to the main sports stadium in Lahore, triggering a 15-minute gun battle with police guarding the vehicles.
Witnesses claim attackers hit the team bus with automatic weapons from several locations and fired a rocket and a grenade that missed.
The injured Sri Lanka team members have now flown back to Colombo but once they arrived, five players and assistant coach Paul Farbrace went to a local medical centre for further checks.
Former Kent cricketer and Reporter columnist Matt Walker, who is from Gravesend, called for the sport's governing body, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to lead a review into the current security measures in place in the domestic game.
The growing popularity of Twenty20 cricket has led to a boom in the number of people going to matches and, as a result, Mr Walker feels players need greater protection.
He said: "There needs to be a reaction to this and, hopefully, the ECB will look at whether we need to tighten up security. Unfortunately, it takes an incident like this for something to get done. I don't know whether that will filter down to the domestic game, but you hope it would.
"We've been saying for two or three years that, particularly with rise of Twenty20, things need to be addressed. I've never felt particularly threatened at a match, but it just takes one idiot in the crowd and, suddenly, you're not protecting the cricketers at all.
"Nothing similar to the incident in Pakistan has happened here yet, but that's no reason not to do anything."
Mr Walker is due to fly out to Dubai for a training camp involving four other English county sides next weekend and admitted the attacks were a cause a for concern. He added: "When something like this happens it is pretty shocking and, when you know someone who is involved, it doubles the impact.
"It's not just Paul Farbrace. I have played with and against some of the Sri Lanka guys like Muttiah Muralitharan and Kumar Sangakkara and I can't believe that cricketers have been targeted by terrorists. It's a crazy situation and it's difficult to get your head round it. It will definitely be in the back of mind. Historically, Dubai is fairly safe, but there are a number of other counties travelling out there as well and you do start to think, 'I'm travelling towards that part of the world, are we going to be safe?'
"Cricketers are normally very isolated from this kind of thing. We live very sheltered lives and you don't expect anything like this to happen. But seeing an attack on a sportsman - and someone you know - makes it hit home even more."
Mr Farbrace represented Kent and Middlesex as a player before returning to the St Lawrence Ground to take over from Mr Willis as academy director in 2004. He worked there for three years before leaving the county to take up a coaching role with the Sri Lanka team in July 2007. Mr Willis said the 41-year-old was a popular character on the cricket circuit and had been aware of the dangers he faced when he took on his new position.
He said: "He's such a likeable guy. My phone hasn't stopped ringing because of the number of people from around the world checking he is alright.
"He loves the game of cricket, which is why he jumped at the chance to go out to Sri Lanka. He lives in Sri Lanka and, with the problem of the Tamil Tigers out there, he is very aware of the dangers in cricket. He knows about the risks of touring out there, but he always said that the security provided was very good. It was such a relief when we found out he was alright.