Age-fraud a scourge that needs to be nipped in the bud


The scourge of age-fraud has disgraced Indian cricket again. Three high-profile players are now under the scanner with the DDCA’s outgoing Ombudsman cracking the whip. The three names in question – Manjot Kalra, Nitish Rana and Shivam Mavi. While Kalra has already been convicted, the two others will have their cases prolonged. Rana will have to provide further documents of his age proof, while Mavi’s case has been forwarded to the BCCI as he no longer represents Delhi.

Meet the culpritsage-fraud

The three players need no introduction whatever. Manjot Kalra and Shivam Mavi starred for India at the 2018 U-19 World Cup. The pair were key contributors as India romped home to their fourth title. Mavi picked up 9 wickets in 6 matches in the tournament at an average of 18.88. Kalra scored 252 runs including an unbeaten 101 in the final against Australia. Rana, on the other hand, has established himself as a senior member in the Delhi Ranji team, having captained the side. He also has gained invaluable experience on the IPL circuit, having played crucial roles for both Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders. Mavi too plays for KKR, with the franchise investing heavily in him as a future star performer.

Not the first incident

Rasikh Salam

Unfortunately, the three players mentioned above aren’t the only ones who have been accused of violating the moral code of the game. The BCCI recently imposed a two-year ban on Jammu and Kashmir pacer Rasikh Salam. Salam made the headlines when he made his debut for Mumbai Indians during the 2019 edition of the IPL. Playing at the age of 17, he became the youngest debutant in the history of the tournament. It was later found out that he had tampered with his birth certificate and was two years older than his claimed age. Unfortunately, it won’t be the final case of age-fraud, with the epidemic spread far and wide at school-level cricket.

Corrupting the cultureDravid

The case of age-fraud at the school level was perfectly elaborated by Indian legend Rahul Dravid. Speaking at an event in Mumbai, he had said, “Age fraud leads to an erosion of culture. It leads to a scenario where a lot of talented boys don’t get to play when they should actually be playing.” 

During his MAK Pataudi lecture in 2015, Dravid had equated age-fraud as an equal offence to corruption and match-fixing. “I think of this overage business as dangerous and even toxic and to me, gives rise to a question: If a child sees his parents and coaches cheating and creating a fake birth certificate, will he not be encouraged to become a cheat? He is being taught to lie by his own elders. At 14, it may be in the matter of the age criteria, at 25 it may be fixing and corruption. How are the two different in any way? In both cases, is it not blatant cheating?”

And he is absolutely right. Dravid was the coach during India’s 2018 U-19 World Cup-winning campaign. Imagine his dismay when learning that two of the key contributors in his side had taken up fraudulent measures. Committing age-fraud is a serious crime and not taking stringent action is morally bankrupting the culture of the gentleman’s game.

What about India’s 2018 U-19 World Cup triumph then?

With two players dragged in the middle of controversy, runners-up Australia could well ask the question as to why isn’t India stripped of the title? With the BCCI’s clout and ICC’s lack of conviction, such a scenario won’t likely arise. But wouldn’t it be morally the right thing to do? As harsh as it would be on the rest of the team who had worked their socks off to win the crown. A similar incident has occurred in international sport. Legendary sprinter Usain Bolt was ultimately stripped of his historic triple-triple Gold medals across 3 Olympics. His teammate in the 4x100m relay during the 2008 Beijing Olympics eventually failed a dope Test. Thus Jamaica and Bolt indeed were disqualified and eventually stripped of their historic feat. Had there been stricter regulations and better clarity in place, the BCCI would have found themselves in a spot of bother.

Time to nip it in the bud

With such a major controversy arising, it is high time that the authorities nip this serious problem in the bud. It will all start with strict actions at the school level, where most of these problems find their root. In order to win matches which are highly competitive, players, their parents and coaches often resort to fraudulent measures. Unless the state authorities and the BCCI impose strict measures, including long-term suspensions and bans, the issue will keep on rearing its ugly head. Often, the BCCI and state authorities act when the players are caught, which is an action too late. Strict laws and sanctions need to be implemented where parties think twice before committing such a crime.