Last week, I read a report about the Delhi Police filing a chargesheet in the age-fudging case involving several of Delhi’s junior cricketers and their parents in your esteemed paper and simply chuckled to myself. For me, it is always painful to read about any kind of police action against cricketers, but I had my reasons to be amused.
I have always stressed the importance of ethical upbringing of young players and am not too happy with what I have seen at the grass roots. What outraged me the most was that the very people responsible for grooming budding cricketers — parents, coaches and junior cricket administrators — were helping impressionable young minds to bend the rules. They weren’t just telling them to lie about their age, they were conveying to them that cheating is fine.
A few years back, as cricket manager of Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association (JKCA), I had filed a written complaint against some Delhi juniors who didn’t look or play like under-14 cricketers. I even remember depositing Rs 5,000. What happened to that complaint is anybody’s guess. I had done my deed but with no follow-up, I had almost given up hope. But the culture of age-fudging which persisted at the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) and other northern states continued to make me sick. So imagine my pleasant surprise when this chargesheet emerged.
About four years back, I had heard Rahul Dravid raise the issue of age-fudging during the M A K Pataudi lecture. He was at pains to explain the malaise of overage players competing with genuine juniors. At that lecture, I wholeheartedly applauded Dravid’s genuine concern. At the time of that lecture, Dravid had been at the helm of India’s junior cricket for some time. Not for a moment am I casting aspersions on Dravid, but I do feel even he must have raised his hands in despair. Any player who has the good of Indian cricket at heart would feel the same about this issue.
Now, please allow me to mention our collective fight against all of DDCA’s malpractices over the years. If it wasn’t for Kirti Azad’s sustained recorded communication with the DDCA and Delhi Police, this mess of age-fudging might have never seen the light of day.
There’s no doubt in my mind that in this sordid drama, it isn’t the junior players who are the actual culprits. It is the manipulative parents, dubious coaches, compromised schools and, of course, the ever-conniving top DDCA officials who are the real villains.
It saddens me no end to contemplate the eventuality that the law takes its course and some junior cricketers and their guides/mentors might go behind bars. But I sincerely hope the DDCA officials involved are made accountable. I say this because I know these officials are still running the seedy syndicate and playing with the cricketing careers of young players in Delhi. I say this because of the forgettable phase in Delhi cricket when anybody and everybody in DDCA felt above everything. That wasn’t quite cricket and I sincerely hope the then DDCA sports secretary, at whose behest all nefarious activities were taking place, is brought to book. I’d like to compliment the present DDCA president for not coming in the way of the Delhi Police investigation.
Finally, we owe it to Rahul “The Wall” Dravid to clean up the unscrupulous age-fudging phenomenon from Indian cricket. I have no hesitation in saying that the North Zone happens to be the hub of this scam. And I say this with a lot of hurt and shame.
This article first appeared in the print edition on June 20, 2019 under the title ‘Spinning on age’.