January 4, 2001

A vexed issue that retards progress

Waleed Hussain from Mumbai

The spate of overaged players participating in age restricted tournaments is a stigma that has affected India's junior level cricket for some time now. Every season, either a coach or a manager of a junior team voices his opinion on the matter but this falls on deaf ears.

A player found guilty may face a ban from playing cricket for a period of time and he can come back and resume playing after the ban period. The irony is that the player banned may not be eligible to participate but the association that authorised him to does not get a reprimand. The BCCI is yet to take a firm decision in this regard. The only remedy to counter the issue has come in the face of a medical examination, which states that a suspected player may be sent for a medical examination to confirm his validity in the age category.

Ashok Bhagwat, the Central Zone junior selector is pleased with the new medical examination policy. He was instrumental in outlining this approach. Eight years ago as a member of the organising committee in the Under-16 tournament, he conducted a medical test on suspected players and debarred six players from UP and Punjab teams after a medical test.

The state of affairs is in such a sorry state that six of the Haryana Cooch Behar Trophy winning team were playing the final under protest. The same six players have also been named as the probables for the India Under-19 team. The players of the Rest of India Under-19 team were sent for a medical examination a day before their match against the touring England Under-19 team. What is to be noted is that two players from the Madhya Pradesh team who were suspected of being overage in the Cooch Behar final are in the Rest of India team playing at Mumbai in the practice game with the tourists and are suspected of being overaged.

The fact of the matter is that the medical report of the suspected players in the Cooch Behar final has been sent to the Board. Neither the results nor the copy of the medical report has been sent to any of the zonal selectors who were present at the final in Pune. The convener on behalf of the BCCI Mr. Matte accompanied the boys for the medical inspection in Pune. Therefore, the selectors are in no position to know if a player is to be excluded in the probables list or not owing to faulty age certificate.

The situation now is that six of the players under suspect are also in the list of 14 probables for the first `Test' to be played from January 9 at Mumbai. Another round of protest is on the suspected cricketers in the Rest of India Under-19 team are playing the game in Mumbai from January 4 to 6. The players are also prospects for the first `Test.' They have been sent for a medical examination and the results should arrive on the second day of the match. From what meets the eye, four players look clearly overaged, but the medical examination should clear the air of doubt once and for all. The point is if six of the suspected Haryana players and four players from the Rest of India team are confirmed as overaged, it reduces the probables in the selection trials on January 7 at the Wankhede stadium for the first `Test'. Those who would be needed to replace the debarred players would all get their India caps by default and not based on their performances.

The chairman of the junior selectors, Rajinder Goel, was disappointed with the fact that the North Zone players were suspected of being overaged. He reacted furiously to the comment that the North Zone associations were to be blamed for the situation.

BCCI vice president Kamal Morarka, in an informal chat with CrinInfo at the CCI on the eve of the BCCI Core Committee meeting, expressed his concern over the matter. He stated that controversy over the issue is bad for the game in the country and the matter should be dealt with severely at the earliest.

The South Zone junior selector C Ashok suggested that "Once some stern action is taken, it will produce good results and genuine talented boys will get the chance they deserve. The guilty associations and the players will not produce bogus certificates and field overaged players in the matches."

Former India captain Dilip Vengsarkar, who was at the MIG ground, said that the overaged players problem had to be dealt with and it was high time something was done about it.

The associations are to be blamed as much as the players. East Zone selector Ashok Sinha believes that the Associations should be held responsible for such unsavoury happenings, because without the Association's consent, a player cannot be selected or be eligible to play in these tournaments. The associations and the members cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that an overaged player has been approved by them to play in an age restricted tournament. He was of the view that action should be taken on the association as well as those who have authorised such a player to represent the state.

It is high time the BCCI did something firm in this regard. A medical examination may seem a tentative solution to the matter but the long term aspect has to be considered keeping in mind the future of Indian cricket.

The matter for the time being has been handed over to the junior cricket committee and its report will be submitted soon. The medical reports of the Rest Of India Under-19 players will be declared on Friday. That may throw some light on the vexed issue.