Cricket: Willey blames `cheating' players for controversial calls

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The Independent Online
THE TEST UMPIRE Peter Willey yesterday diverted attention from the officials out in the middle by accusing players of "cheating each other". Willey, who played for England 26 times between 1976 and 1986, feels the ways in which the game has changed over recent years now make it harder for umpires to call the decisions.

The South African umpire Rudi Koertzen has been criticised after his display in the second Test between South Africa and England. But Willey, speaking on Radio Five Live, said: "I've been on the Test scene for four years and it's getting harder and harder.

"I get cheesed off with everybody writing about the poor old umpires. Let's talk about the honesty and integrity of players. They just want to cheat each other. They know they've nicked it to second slip but they just stand there. In some Tests, I've been ashamed to call it cricket as I used to know it.

"I know Rudi and he's a super bloke and an honest man. I stood in a game when England got all the decisions and nothing was said. It's all right for me to cheat the opposition but it's not all right the other way."

Television replays indicated Mark Butcher, Michael Vaughan, Alec Stewart and Chris Adams were all unfortunate to be given out by Koertzen and Steve Bucknor. But Willey said: "TV is to blame. I had a game in the winter when the snickometer went berserk.

"The batsman came down the other end after seeing it on the big screen and said there was no way he'd nicked it.

"Television isn't 100 per cent right all the time. Steve Waugh [the Australia captain], who is respected around the world, said to me that the big screen should be banned from every ground in the world. He said it's not fair on the umpires," Willey said.

There have been calls for two neutral umpires to stand in all Tests but Ray Illingworth, the former chairman of selectors, said: "The umpire at the other end, Steve Bucknor, made mistakes as well. There's no guarantee that if they're neutral they won't make mistakes.

"I don't think in my time I ever played against a dishonest umpire. There's no doubt that mistakes were made, but so long as they're genuine mistakes, and I'm convinced they were, you can't get too aggrieved."

The Middlesex seam bowler Angus Fraser believes the emphasis must be put on improving umpiring performance rather than seeking to apportion blame to the fact that "home" umpires still stand in Tests at one end.

"I think the standard of umpiring must improve, just as cricketers themselves need to make the best of their game," he said. "Players have to perform and if they don't, they end up out of the reckoning. I think umpires are the same. They can obviously affect the outcome, so it's very important that they're as good as they can be."

Fraser does not subscribe to the belief that both umpires must be neutral. "With one neutral umpire I don't think there's room for the match to be affected too much," he said.