March 3, 2009 – a group of terrorists attack the Sri Lanka team bus which was on its way to the Gadaffi Stadium to resume proceedings in a Test against Pakistan. As a result, half a dozen players and a few officials suffered bullets on their body – leaving some of them severely injured. Besides, eight of the police personals and bystanders got killed in the deadly attack as well. Meanwhile, off the officials who suffered injuries, the reserve umpire for the game – Ahsan Raza was also among them. Two bullets pierced his lungs and liver – leaving him in the coma for a long time. Also, it was nearly six months before Raza could walk again.

I am glad cricket returned to Pakistan – Ahsan Raza

Going down the lane, Raza feels terrified while sharing what happened in the 2009 Lahore attack. As he was the victim of the attack, he feels chills in his spine to even remember it.

“My wounds have healed but whenever I look at them I remember the gruesome incident,” Raza told AFP. “Whenever someone mentions that incident I request him not to remind me of that tragedy.”

However, the attack on the Sri Lanka team changed the landscape of cricket in the country. Not only the ICC barred Pakistan from hosting international matches on its home soil since then, but also the foreign players denied coming to the country for playing in the Pakistan Super League (PSL). As a result, the UAE became the home for Pakistan in hosting international and PSL matches.

2009 Lahore attack, Ahsan Raza
After the 2009 Lahore attack, Ahsan Raza officiated in Pakistan home series against Zimbabwe in 2015. Image Courtesy: Getty

Meanwhile, the constant efforts have been made by the PCB to bring cricket back to the country. In the past, a few of the teams including Zimbabwe and the Windies have toured Pakistan for a short limited-over series. Besides, a World XI team also visited Pakistan for three-match T20s, which the hosts won by 2-1. Not only this but in 2017, the Karachi hosted the finale of the PSL.

Ahasan Raza, who officiated in one of the games against Zimbabwe and also during the one-off T20I against Sri Lanka in 2017 said,

“I was very emotional that day,” he said. “To their credit PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board) has taken gradual steps and I am 100 per cent confident that more foreign teams will come in the near future.”