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Two-season ban, possible criminal charge for age-fudging in India

Vinod Rai, the former Comptroller and Auditor General of India, who is on the Supreme-Court appointed interim panel to oversee the BCCI Associated Press

The Committee of Administrators (CoA) has ruled that players submitting false and tampered-with birth certificates as part of the age-verification processes for BCCI tournaments will now be banned for two years and could also face criminal action from the BCCI.

At a meeting in Delhi in May, the CoA deliberated on the existing penalties for such an offence and decided that with a due mechanism to identify such fraud, the ban period should be doubled from the existing one-year period. Age-fudging is a prominent feature in India's domestic system, particularly in age-group cricket, where parents and even coaches encourage the practice despite the risks of being found out. The loss of two years of top-level cricket, along with the danger of legal charges, the CoA hopes, will serve as a deterrent to any such attempts by players.

Under the Indian legal system, it is a criminal offence to provide false birth certificates. The BCCI has now decided to adopt the same penalty wherever applicable. "Players who are found [after a proper enquiry] to have submitted false/tampered birth certificates will be banned from all BCCI tournaments for two seasons," the CoA said as per the minutes of the May 18 meeting. "BCCI may also initiate criminal action against the concerned player and/or any other person responsible for submitting false/tampered birth certificates."

The decision comes almost three years after the current coach of the India Under-19s and A teams, Rahul Dravid, had called for a regulation at the state and academy levels to stop the "scourge of overage players" in his MAK Pataudi lecture, adding that age-fudging was just as bad as fixing.

"The truth is that the player who has faked his age might make it at the junior level not necessarily because he is better or more talented, but because he is stronger and bigger. We all know how much of a difference a couple of years can make at that age. That incident will have another ripple effect: an honest player, deprived of his place by an overage player, is disillusioned. We run the risk of losing him forever," Dravid had said during the lecture.

At the time, bone-density tests were the only measure of determining a player's age. A centralised database of birth certificates, Dravid had said, would be the way to tackle the issue.