New Zealand v Bangladesh Test - Men's

'You had seen death with your own eyes'

Bangladesh's Tamim Iqbal reflects on the horrific Christchurch shooting as he and teammates land safely home

Cricket Network

17 March 2019, 09:42 AM AEST

Bangladesh batsman Tamim Iqbal has relived Friday's tragic events in Christchurch, when he and teammates were only minutes away from being in the firing line during a mass shooting that resulted in the deaths of at least 49 people.

Members of the Bangladesh squad were travelling by bus from their training session at Hagley Oval on the eve of the third Test (which has since been cancelled) to the Al Noor mosque in the Christchurch city centre, but their planned 1.30pm departure was delayed by a few minutes due to the captain's press conference and an impromptu game of dressing-room football between Taijul Islam and Mushfiqur Rahim.

"These little things saved us in the end," Tamim told ESPN reporter Mohammad Isam, who had been at the press conference and who also became caught up in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.

"I always sit on the sixth seat on the left. When we were getting near the mosque, everyone on my right started to see something outside the window. I saw that a body was lying on the floor. "Naturally we thought either he was drunk or had fainted. So then the bus kept going, and stopped near the mosque. But everyone's attention remained with that man lying on the ground.

"While that was happening, my attention went to another man, bloodied, and about to fall down.

"Panic set in, at that point.

"Our bus stopped in front of a car near the mosque. We saw that the bus driver was talking to a lady who was literally shaking and crying. She was saying, 'there's some shooting going on, don't go, don't go'.

"Our bus driver said that these guys are going to the mosque. She replied, 'no no no, don't go to the mosque. It is happening in the mosque'.

"She started to cry. Everyone heard and saw her, and we started to panic a little more. At that point we were about 20 yards from the mosque. Literally (we could) get out of the bus and walk to the mosque. That close.

"We saw some more bloodied bodies lying around the mosque."

Tamim detailed the next "six or seven minutes" during which the panic rose within the squad, culminating in the arrival of the police and the players' demands that they be let off the bus for fear of it becoming a "big target".

"Right at that point, for some reason, the driver took the bus 10 metres ahead," he continued. "I don't know why he did this. We were at breaking point at that point. Everyone lost it. We started to bang the middle door. We were kicking and punching that door. He opened the door.

"Everyone said, 'let's run though the park'. Someone said that we become easier targets in the park, what if the shooters just notice us there and start shooting?

"The next thing that really scared us was how the police may react seeing us running with bags, etcetera. By that time I saw you three there (Isam and fellow journalists Utpal Shuvro and Mazhar Uddin). I didn't realise it then but last night, I realised how big a risk you three took – there will be very few people on earth who will take that risk.

"I actually got relieved when I saw you guys. Then we all started to walk. By the time we had gone a fair distance, everyone started to run towards the ground."

The Bangladesh squad have since safely flown home, with the final Test of the series cancelled and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern condemning the attack, which occurred at two of the city's mosques.

The tragedy has sparked an outpouring of grief for those who lost their lives, and support for the families affected, while Tamim said it would live in the minds of the Bangladesh players for "a long time".

"You know, you had seen death with your own eyes," he said. "Your body goes cold. It was something we will never forget.

"And it is such a thing, it is getting worse with every hour we pass. I have spoken to a lot of my team-mates, and everyone is talking about it.

"The good thing is that everyone still has a little smile on their face. But trust me, inside, everyone is shattered.

"One thing for sure, it will take a long time to get over. I hope the families help us. We might need counselling. I close my eyes, and I am seeing those scenes.

"On our way to the airport, we were telling each other that if things had gone wrong by even a little bit, it would have been our dead bodies, not us, going home.

"It was just a matter of 30 seconds."

Read the full account from Tamim Iqbal here