The BCCI has finally bestirred itself on an age-fraud in cricket after Rahul Dravid, involved as coach and mentor to successive batches of national junior teams, saw the menace first-hand. The cricket board has come up with a voluntary declaration scheme that allows players to own up and resume playing in their authentic age group. It’s the gentlest prod possible for a problem that is fiendishly widespread across India and worse, one that the BCCI has let slide all these years, even as Indian U19 teams brazenly went about winning World Cups.
However, while the BCCI might, in its paternalistic largesse, excuse this behaviour by making boys play in the correct age bracket, they are in no position to forgive what is a legal infringement — lying on oath. Making fake birth certificates is a serious crime and implies perjury committed by parents or coaches in front of a magistrate. While the BCCI claims that 250 players were banned last season, the board has left it to the birth registrar authorities to initiate action into the very act of tampering official documents.
Age fudging points to a deeper problem of ethics among those aspiring to play for India. No amount of inspirational mentoring can offset the values, or lack of them, at a formative stage. Going forward, both doping and match fixing can get rationalised in these impressionable minds. It’s a tad naive of the BCCI to leave it to cheating players to grow a conscience in the absence of an effective deterrent or sure punishment. They will need to enforce strict document verifications for every player. Even one player who cheats and gets away with it in the Indian U19 team denies opportunity to hundreds.