HomeAnalysisAge Fraud in Indian Cricket: Are players really to...

Age Fraud in Indian Cricket: Are players really to be blamed?

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There have been times while watching a cricket match when we tend to hear commentators comment on cricketers’ age. We as fans have many times been suspicious of a cricketer’s ag not matching his looks. The suspicion grows on us when we hear news around players forging their age, or commentators taking a dig at the age of the player, or even there have been tweets and press releases where quintessential players blame or joke about the ages os other players.
Age Fraud is now considered a regular scenario in the domestic trophies, where teams are usually under the scanner with players usually faking their ages to play in tournaments either earlier than their regular playing age or playing after their eligible age.
The matter has been in the news for a long time and is usually escalated at the time of Ranji Trophy and domestic tournaments. Indian Cricket is usually scrutinized for the news speculating around the suspension of Age Fraud. A lot of veteran cricketers, mentors, and coaches have talked about Age Fraud as a serious issue and taking the right measures to neutralize its effect.
To strengthen its ground on zero-tolerance on Age fraud in Cricket, BCCI has formated a few helpline numbers to the Cricketers, support staff and administrators of the State Associations to keep a check on the age of players. There have been quite a few rumors of cricketers suspended and banned after their involvement in defrauding the age, but there are cases when the players are suspended because of their birth months and enrollment months. The recent case where Manjot Kalra has been banned for age fraud during his time as a key player of the Indian Cricket Team in the U-19 World Cup 2018.
Cricket is not the only sport in which age fabrication has been a popular abuse of regulation. Football, Basketball, and other world-class sports are affected by the de-famed case of Age-Fraud internationally. Before we talk more about Age Fraud or fabrication of age, let’s understand the root cause of Age fraud and what it means.
When a player deliberately misinterprets his or her true age, the person is said to be a company of age fibration. Players usually fabricate their age with the intent to garner privileges or status that the player would either be deprived of or would not be eligible for. Usually, players misrepresent their age to share the concessions provided to adults. The other case is where the age of players is usually less on the paper than their actual age so that they are eligible to play longer and can participate in an age-restricted tournament.
It is not always the players who manipulate their age, on some occasions, age is increased or lowered to reach the requirements or make it to the cut-offs, by publicists, parents/ guardians, coaches, and other handlers. In most of the cases, either a year or two is added to or subtracted from the player’s age.
The cases have increased where parents and coaches deliberately manipulate the player’s age to help them participate in more number of tournaments. In case a player might have missed the opportunity to play for a team or would have to wait because of the age factor and in an attempt to get the player in the team, mentors manipulate the age accordingly.
In modern Western society, it is possible for a person to not know their exact date of birth, and in such a case the person might choose a birth-date favoring his/her career at that moment. Later after research when the date of birth is found out to be false, this situation will lead to age fabrication. There are certain terms in English when a player subtracts or adds time to one’s age; ‘Shaving’ is used for subtracting, while ‘Napping’ is used when there’s a case of addition.
There are several scenarios where parents and secretaries were charged for the case of age manipulation of a player. A report suggested that Parents of seven Delhi junior cricketers, including the parents of a young cricketer who was a part of the Under-19 World Cup-winning team last year, and the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) secretary were held responsible and charge-sheeted by the Delhi Police in a four-year-old age fraud case.

The Age Fraud Charge-Sheet

It was during May-June in 2019 when the reports came out of 7 Delhi cricketers, who represented the country in Under-16 and Under-19 World Cups were charged with the crime of age fudging. The alleged manipulation allowed the cricketers to play in the World Cups despite being over-age. There were eight cricketers involved in the scam, but since the other 7 were juvenile in 2014-15, the season the fraud was committed, their parents were named in the charge sheet filed in the court of the chief metropolitan magistrate.
If the investigators are to be believed, it was the parents who got the age of their children changed in Municipal Records and then admitted them to Vidya Jain Public School. Vijay Tihara, the secretary of DDCA was a part of the management of the school and helped these cricketers break into the Under-16 and Under-19 teams.

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The case of Manjot Kalra and Rasikh Salam

The Mumbai Indians’ pacer, Rashik Salam was in the news in 2019 for two very varied reasons. His brilliant pace and bowling skills grabbed the attention of every cricket fan in the country. Along with the cricket fans, his performance caught the attention of the board members too. The Jammu-Kashmir bowler, who claimed to be 17 years old, was found to be 2 years older than his official age in the BCCI records.
Rasikh is now banned for two years from all cricket under the BCCI. This includes no inclusion in any team of the IPL and no exposure to national-level cricket. The fast bowler has also been withdrawn from the Under-19 squad.

A day after Rashik Salam’s news broke out, there was another age-fudging case following the report. The star of the match for India in the Under-19 World Cup final against Australia, Manjot Kalra was suspended for a year from playing Ranji Trophy. Reports suggest that the youngster is a year older than his age in BCCI records and was born on 15th January 1998, instead of 1999.
According to the charge sheet, It is crystal clear that the date of birth of Manjot Kalra has been fudged/changed by his parents to give him the undue benefit of playing with the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA). It is proved beyond doubt that the birth certificate of Manjot Kalra has been fudged/changed by his parents.”

How does BCCI carry out the verification process?

The verification process for the players who directly come into the system at the Under-19 or Under-23 level can be tricky or difficult for the Board of Control of Cricket in India (BCCI). The Board usually verifies the date of birth with hospital records, birth certificates, and school mark sheets.
This method has proven to be a bigger challenge for BCCI because there have been cases of players from rural areas being unable to furnish documents such as school-leaving certificates. BCCI has regulated a policy that they will only monitor the records through digitalized certificated issued by Birth & Death registry.

How do the respected voices of Indian Cricket feel about this?

Rahul Dravid, one of the finest batsmen of Indian Cricket and the current India A and India Under-19 head coach, was in the headlines when he spoke strongly about age manipulation. He clearly blamed the attitude of coaches, parents, and mentors who help the player forge the age just to take part in a local or a junior level tournament. 
He said that the “scourge of overage players in junior cricket” was no different than “fixing and corruption”. Dravid even put in regulation with the BCCI that limit players to appearing at the Under-19 World Cup only once, even if they’re eligible to play again. 
“Like the issue of bowling actions, it is a similar emphasis on short-term results that has led to the scourge of overage players in junior matches,” Dravid said at his MAK Pataudi lecture. “The truth is that the player who has faked his age might make it at the junior level not necessarily because he is better or more talented, but because he is stronger and bigger.”
Rahul Dravid blamed the attitude of the player along with the support provided to them by their elders and stated, “That entire exercise begins when a coach alters a player’s date of birth so that he can take part in a local tournament. The parents are happy to accept the value of an extra year or two, particularly in junior cricket and, academically, at middle school.”

The former Indian captain Bishan Singh Bedi puts it on BCCI for not formulating tough criteria to verify the ages of budding talents in India. “The onus is squarely on the BCCI. They must put a stop to this. You can’t turn a blind eye to this problem, which has always been there at least in Delhi. As the parent body, it’s the BCCI’s responsibility. It’s short-sightedness. There is no honesty or integrity anywhere. It’s not what cricket stands for. BCCI must – they must – take cognizance of the situation.”
There have been reports that suggest the involvement of State Boards in the age-fudging cases, and at this level, players are sometimes forced to forge their age by their coaches so that they can participate in a local tournament. While there isn’t a full-fledged verification process to keep the players under the radar, BCCI is looking to spread the message that age-fudging, a criminal offense under the Indian Penal Code, can ruin careers.
What do you think about the age-fudging in Indian Cricket at such a junior level? Why do the parents instead of preparing their kids for the worse of conditions, help them forge their age to help them make it to the national team? This short-term benefit to performing at junior-level tournaments by manipulating the age can destroy a cricketer’s career before even starting. Should BCCI implement more tough regulations to put an end to all of this? 

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