While age fraud is a global problem existing in every sport, cricket has witnessed a fair share of it in recent times. The ongoing U-19 Cricket World Cup has been embroiled in such a controversy when several players and coaches in the Mumbai cricket circle alleged that Nepal captain Raju was overage by a fair distance, before the International Cricket Council (ICC) saved face by backing the player. This amidst murmurs in the cricket community that a lot of our own players participating in the showpiece youth event in Bangladesh are themselves cheating the age criteria.

It is a phenomenon that has surrounded Mumbai cricket for some time, with the Mumbai School Sports Association (MSSA) banning four players each from Rizvi Springfield and Swami Vivekanand from the U-16 Harris Shield tournament on grounds of being overage.

“Outstation players come with two or three certificates to the city. It has become a big menace in Mumbai cricket. Some of the boys who fail a bone, or TW3 test, are genuinely underage but are deprived of playing the game, while some who may clear them, may not be. We don’t want to deprive genuine boys from playing the game, but at the same time, we don’t want to see them suffer because of a few who are much stronger physically because they are older. So, it is a complex issue,” Dilip Vengsarkar, former India skipper and Mumbai Cricket Association vice-president was quoted on Tuesday in the Times of India.

The former chief selector has offered a solution to this menace, something which current U-19 coach Rahul Dravid has also spoken about: “I think the best solution would be if the BCCI makes U-19 players ineligible to play in the IPL. It will sort out the issue at least to some extent,” Vengsarkar pointed out.

“This way, the U-19 players will not fudge their age, because they won’t be allowed to play in the IPL. It can be one of the solutions to prevent age fudging,” said the former India captain.

With U-19 cricketers like M Ashwin going for big money in the recent IPL auction, impressing in the U-19 level can often prove to be a big-money ticket to the IPL. But Vengsarkar was quick to suggest that youngsters must first look to develop the basics before aiming to earn the big bucks in the IPL.

“Presently, we don’t have any T20 tournaments for the U-19 age group, which is a good thing, because the boys should be allowed to develop their basics. Once they cross 19, they can get into this format,” he added.

Vengsarkar also assured the MCA will come down hard on those committing age fraud, even suggesting that the schools who try to escape the rule book would be punished. “Till now, we were only banning the boys alleged to be overage, and not their school as the other players should not suffer for any fault of theirs. Now, though, we would bar their school too, so that a strong message is sent to everyone.”

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