Cricket journalist Mohammad Isam has revealed the harrowing phone call he received from Bangladeshi player Tamim Iqbal during the Christchurch mosque shooting.
Members of the Bangladesh cricket team had just arrived by bus at Masjid Al Noor mosque for Friday afternoon prayers when they heard gunshots.
Had they arrived a few minutes earlier they would have been inside the mosque, where at least 30 people were killed by a gunman with an automatic rifle.
Another nearby mosque in Christchurch was also attacked, and overall 49 people were killed and more than 20 seriously injured.
ESPNcricinfo writer Isam was travelling with the Bangladesh team in New Zealand, and received a horrifying phone call on Friday afternoon.
“I get a call from Tamim Iqbal, one of the senior-most cricketers in the team, as I’m leaving the Hagley Oval,” Isam told ESPNcricinfo.
“He’s calling me for help. ‘There’s shooting here, please save us.’
“I first think that he is playing a prank but he hangs up and calls again – this time, his voice starts to crack. He says that I should call the police as there’s a shooting going on inside the mosque where they are about to enter.”
Isam said he immediately made his way to the mosque to see what was happening.
“I see one man running towards me, crying, and holding his arm. There’s definitely blood on his shirt,” he said.
“People nearby are helping another man to escape, shouting instructions at him.
Bangladesh team escaped from a mosque near Hagley Park where there were active shooters. They ran back through Hagley Park back to the Oval. pic.twitter.com/VtkqSrljjV
— Mohammad Isam (@Isam84) March 15, 2019
“I keep walking fast towards the bus when I see a line of Bangladesh players running away from the bus.
“I cross the road, and as I get close, Ebadot Hossain grabs me by the arm and tells me to run with them.
“At this point I still have no idea what actually has happened; I don’t even know if the team was the target of the attack.”
‘We were really lucky’
When the bus carrying some players and coaching staff arrived at the mosque, they heard but did not see the shootings.
The players were kept on the bus by police, then later allowed to leave and to walk to nearby Hagley Oval, where they’d been scheduled to begin the third Test against New Zealand on Saturday.
The players eventually returned to their hotel shaken, distressed, and in no mental state to consider playing cricket, Isam said.
The Test match was cancelled, and the Bangladesh squad was preparing to fly home on Saturday.
Team manager Khaled Mashud told ESPNcricinfo the players had a lucky escape.
“We must have been about 50 yards from the mosque. I would say we were really lucky,” Mashud said.
“Had we reached even three or four minutes earlier, we probably would have been inside the mosque.”
Players and team staff had earlier taken to social media to recount their narrow escape.
Opening batsman Iqbal tweeted: “entire team got saved from active shooters. Frightening experience and please keep us in your prayers.”
Performance analyst Shrinivas Chandrasekaran posted: “Just escaped active shooters. Heartbeats pumping badly and panic everywhere.”
Mushfiqur Rahim posted “Alhamdulillah Allah save us today while shooting in Christchurch in the mosque … we r extremely lucky … never want to see this things happen again … pray for us”
Entire team got saved from active shooters!!! Frightening experience and please keep us in your prayers #christchurchMosqueAttack
— Tamim Iqbal Khan (@TamimOfficial28) March 15, 2019
Alhamdulillah Allah save us today while shooting in Christchurch in the mosque…we r extremely lucky…never want to see this things happen again….pray for us
— Mushfiqur Rahim (@mushfiqur15) March 15, 2019
Just escaped active shooters!!! Heartbeats pumping badly and panic everywhere!! #ChristchurchMosque
— Shrinivas (@chinu1501) March 15, 2019