The honour of officiating a Cricket World Cup Final is one few umpires ever get the chance to experience. In Simon Taufel’s eyes, he oversaw two in the space of four days in 2011.
The Australian was among the men in the middle for both India’s seismic semi-final clash against Pakistan and the actual final between India and Sri Lanka later that week.
The whole world seemingly descended on Mohali for the semi-final. Bollywood celebrities were in attendance. So too were the Prime Ministers of both nations.
“The semi-final in Mohali was certainly a wonderful occasion and in a lot of ways it was a final in itself,” Taufel told the ICC. “It seemed like the whole world was watching us, it seemed like the whole world had their private jets parked at Chandigarh Airport.”
Watch the full interview in the video below.
It was only after the match, sitting outside the dressing rooms as the stadium lights were switched off, that the veteran official got the chance to breathe it all in.
And just as he had soaked in one magical night, he found himself jetting off the following morning for another unforgettable match in Mumbai.
As soon as the chartered plane touched down in Mumbai, the size of the occasion became clear. With days still remaining before the showpiece event, the roads from the airport to the city were jam-packed and the streets were a hive of energy.
“Already the city of Mumbai was in celebration mode in anticipation of what I would call a second final of the 2011 Cricket World Cup,” the five-time ICC Umpire of the Year said.
By the time Taufel and fellow umpire Aleem Dar walked out to the middle on game day, the atmosphere had reached fever pitch.
“You look at the full house of the crowd and the noise that is going on, and I remember turning to Aleem and said ‘good luck hearing anything tonight and may all of your outside edges be loud ones’.”
Like an opening partnership, Taufel says the relationship between two on-field umpires is key to success.
“We really just try to stay as tight and as close together and really build upon that trusting relationship that we have got, that we are going to do this together.”
Taufel and Dar took the enormity of the occasion in their stride, handling the match ball-by-ball, over-by-over.
“For me it was about keeping it simple and on the back of that semi-final trying to replicate what I did there, which was focus on what I had to do,” Taufel said.
“Focus on how I could help my umpiring colleague Aleem Dar, my role within the team, how we could focus on a bit of team success. Keep things as simple as possible and let everyone else worry about what the other two teams were going to do.
“It is about really desensitizing myself away from the spectacle and the event and not worry too much about who is doing what and what milestones might be being created by various people.”
There was a whirlwind of emotions in the stadium when MS Dhoni hit that six to wrap up the match. Elation among India’s players and staff. Euphoria for the home crowd. Despair for the Sri Lankans.
For the umpires, it was sweet relief.
“I remember the ball being hit out of the park and in some ways you think 'thank god that is over and we’ve got through the event relatively unscathed'.
“While other people are celebrating or other people are consoling each other, for us umpires it is all about the sense of relief that we have actually gotten through it.
“Nothing significant or major has happened to be a talking point or a distracting issue from an umpiring team perspective and that is a great thing and we can just walk in the room and just relax now.”
Ten years on from the event, that night in Mumbai still lives fresh in Taufel’s memories and remnants of the game decorate his walls.
He has a Mahela Jayawardene jersey signed by the entirety of the Sri Lankan team as well as a Virender Sehwag kit signed by the Indians.
Just beside those two signed shirts is one more just as precious to the umpire. His own kit from the day, framed and signed by his fellow match officials from that night at the Wankhede.
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