Police investigate exposed Shankar
Worcestershire have released batsman Adrian Shankar after barely two weeks with the club - and passed his registration documents to the police after it emerged there was more to the departure than a simple change of mind.
The background of Shankar, who represented Worcestershire in the CB40 and County Championship last week, and whose deal was terminated without further comment on Thursday, has started to unravel. It has emerged he is actually three years older than he told the county and talked his way into a two-year contract through a mixture of bluff and bravado.
Worcestershire only signed Shankar on May 10. In the press release that announced this, the club stated that Shankar was 26 years old and had just returned from a prolific winter in Sri Lanka. It also stated that he was in demand from several other counties.
None of it is true. Shankar is actually 29 and, while he may have played some cricket in Sri Lanka, it was not at first-class or an equivalent level.
"Adrian Shankar was signed by Worcestershire CCC on the 10th May after agreeing terms," said the club in a subsequent statement. "It quickly became evident that documents provided in order to satisfy the club's obligations to the England and Wales Cricket Board were unacceptable. This documentation has now been passed to West Mercia Police for investigation and no further comment will be made by the club while the investigation is taking place."
Shankar left Bedford School (he played in the same team as Alastair Cook) after his A Levels in 2000, made his second XI debut in 1999 (for Nottinghamshire) and his first-class debut in 2002. He's subsequently played second XI cricket for Sussex, Worcestershire, Lancashire and Middlesex.
Were the details he gave Worcestershire correct, it would have meant he made his second team debut aged just 14. But when Shankar registered at Cambridge and Bedford, he gave his date of birth as May 1982. Only much later did it change to May 1985.
It seems he produced identification proving that he was born in 1985, but he has explained his past by suggesting he might have been the youngest Cambridge University captain in history. Until yesterday, even the Cambridge University Cricket website (www.cucc.net) carried that version of events. Meanwhile, a little research proved that several of the players he was supposed to have played against in Sri Lanka were actually playing elsewhere on the same days.
Shankar has also said that his career progression has been held-up by an 18-month bout of glandular fever, that he played tennis to national standard as a junior and that he was in the Arsenal academy at the start of Arsene Wenger's tenure.
On the field Shankar is, at best, an ordinary player. After a decade in the game, he had a first-class average of just 19 and has passed 50 only once in 21 innings. He made 143 in the Varsity Match of 2002 (as a 17-year-old, if you believe his version of events) but, as Chris Scott, the Cambridge UCCE coach, said: "The bowling was unbelievably bad. He was a poor player and there's no way I would have recommended him."
Oddly, however, when Shankar signed for Lancashire, the Cambridge coach was quoted in a press release referring to him as one of the finest young players the side had seen since John Crawley. "I phoned Lancashire and made it clear that I'd never said anything of the sort," Scott said. "No-one at Worcestershire or Lancashire asked my opinion before they signed him." Instead of smelling a rat, however, Lancashire simply removed the offending paragraph.
Does any of this matter? Is it just an example of a determined man refusing to give up on his dream?
Perhaps. But Shankar was also taking another man's place in the Worcestershire team. And, by claiming to be 26, Shankar slipped in under the threshold to qualify for the young player incentives handed out by the ECB to first-class counties. He therefore gave himself an unfair advantage in the fight for a place in the Worcestershire team. His swift release was no surprise.
The episode also raises questions about Worcestershire. It seems incredible that no-one at the club thought to check Shankar's story. Five minutes spent on the web would have been enough to raise suspicions; ten minutes on the phone would have confirmed them.
Instead, however, Worcestershire contented themselves with a photocopy of a passport and took Shankar's word for his former achievements. They even threw Shankar straight into their first team - as an opening batsman - without even taking a look at him in a Second XI game (though he did play for their second team in 2003). He was out for a third-ball duck against Middlesex and, batting in the middle-order in the Championship against Durham, was unbeaten on 10 when injury ended his innings.