Umpire Raza returns to cricket after Lahore attack

ABU DHABI: Umpire Ahsan Raza, who was criticially injured during the attacks on the Sri Lankan team on March 3, returned to international cricket in the third one-day between Pakistan and New Zealand here on Monday.

‘I am thrilled and exited to no end,’ Raza told AFP. ‘Today I am alive, and making a return to international cricket is very sensational for me and makes my belief in the Almighty stronger.’

The 35-year-old, who will be the reserve umpire in the match here, had to undergo surgery to repair a collapsed right lung and a damaged liver after being shot when terrorists attacked the Sri Lankan team in Lahore.

Raza remained in the intensive care unit for 26 days and needed two-dozen bottles of blood to survive.

‘It was a miracle that I survived, because of the prayers of my wife, my daughters and my people. Doctors are surprised that I am now fit to stand in international cricket,’ said Raza, who returned to first-class cricket two months ago.

Raza, a former wicket-keeper batsman who played 21 first-class matches before taking up umpiring, said every blast in Pakistan reminds him of the March attacks.

‘I often wake up late in the night because of the March 3 nightmares and every time there is a blast in Pakistan I remember those attacks of Lahore because every terror attack looks the same.

‘Every time I hear of the attacks I pray that my country gets rid of such incidents because every walk of life has been disturbed, including my lovely game of cricket.’

Raza said it was his will power and support from colleagues that helped him survive.

‘I was in the hospital for so long, but it was my will power and support from people like Aleem Dar (declared world’s best umpire last month) that I am here at this ground and aiming for further progress.’

Raza hopes he graduates as field umpire when international cricket returns to Pakistan.

‘It’s my wish that when I make my debut as field umpire it’s on a ground in Pakistan, we badly need international cricket to return to our country because everyone loves the game.’

After the attacks, the International Cricket Council stripped Pakistan of its share of World Cup 2011 matches. Even before the attacks teams were reluctant to tour Pakistan over security fears.

‘Things will improve and my country will host matches very soon.’

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