Every day, Simon Taufel thinks about the morning six months ago when he was certain his life was about to end on Sri Lanka's cricket tour of Pakistan. On the way to the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore for day three of the second test in March, the world's number-one umpire was travelling in a mini-bus behind the Sri Lankan team when a dozen gunmen opened fire on the convoy, killing eight people. The driver of Taufel's vehicle was one of those who died, while seven Sri Lankan players - and fellow umpire Ahsan Raza - were wounded. 'I know I'm lucky to be here and still on the planet,' Taufel said. 'We were isolated, left alone and unaccounted for. I can't explain why I'm still here.' The players' injuries were minor, but Pakistani Raza - the TV umpire working with Australians Taufel and Steve Davis in the test match - underwent emergency surgery to repair a collapsed right lung and damaged liver. As the minibus came under attack, match referee Chris Broad bravely threw himself over Raza to protect the umpire from further injury once he realised his colleague had been shot. On the Sri Lankan tour coach ahead of them, there were 25 armed police commandos, but the match officials were left on their own in an unprotected minibus, just like 'sitting ducks', according to former England test batsman Broad. 'We are determined not to be ever put in that position again,' Taufel said. 'I was critical of what we were promised in terms of protection and safety and what was then delivered in our hour of need. I'm confident the ICC and home boards now understand their duty to care over everyone who participates in the game, not just players.' This week, Taufel and other members of the cricket's elite panel of umpires will be in South Africa as the ICC Champions Trophy belatedly gets under way. It was originally scheduled for September 2008 in Pakistan but was called off two weeks before the opening game after South Africa announced it would not take part because of security concerns, which had earlier been voiced by England, Australia and New Zealand. That was seven months before the shocking Lahore shooting, which was the first attack on a national sports team since the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches by Islamic militants at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Despite his brush with death in Lahore, Taufel says he actually feels sorry that Pakistan will miss out on cricket's 'mini-World Cup'. 'I go where the games are but I feel sad for Pakistan losing an important series,' he said. 'However, I understand the reasons more than most. I'm grateful that South Africa can now host it and pleased that we have a packed cricketing calendar in 2009.' Hailing from Sydney, Taufel was once a promising fast bowler who played in the same state schoolboys' team as future Australian players Adam Gilchrist and Michael Slater before a back injury effectively ended his playing career. He didn't plan on an alternative cricket career until he agreed to help out a friend by going on an umpiring course. After passing the exam, Taufel started officiating in 1991, made his first-class debut in 1995, and stood in his inaugural one-day international in Sydney in January 1999 as Australia played Sri Lanka. He was just 28, younger than some of the players but 10 months older than his former schoolboy teammate, Gilchrist, who scored a century in the match. A decade later, Taufel now has 59 test matches and 139 ODIs under his belt. 'I've got too much on my plate to be worried about a potential cricket career that never took off so I don't think about what might have been,' Taufel said. 'I've been able to achieve so much more as an umpire than I ever would have as a player.' At the ICC Awards night on October 1 in Johannesburg, ahead of the Champions Trophy semi-finals, Taufel has again been shortlisted for Umpire of the Year, an award that he's won for the last five years. Despite his longevity and excellence, 38-year-old Taufel is still easily the youngest of the 12-member elite panel, with nine members aged 50 and above, including 60-year-old South African Rudi Koertzen. The frightening experience in the mini-bus forced Taufel to re-assess his priorities. A year earlier, he'd toyed with retirement because of the many months spent away from his young family back in Sydney. And then there's the inescapable scrutiny and criticism of umpires - including the 'Awful Taufel' headlines in the British tabloids a few years ago during a rocky spell in an England v New Zealand series - that also must wear on the mind But Taufel has decided to soldier on, with no set timetable for retirement. Ahead of his upcoming assignments in South Africa, Taufel had also officiated this year in Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and, of course, Pakistan. 'I'll continue to officiate while I'm finding it challenging, rewarding and that I'm wanted,' he said. 'There have been some positives to come out of the Lahore experience. 'I have a greater perspective on life and on what is really important. One thing I would say to anyone: give your loved ones a huge hug while you still can.'