BCCI chief medical officer resignation puts cloud over age-verification for Vijay Merchant Trophy

Dr Abhijit Salvi was in-charge of verifying players' age for Under-16 tournament that begins on January 9

Nagraj Gollapudi
Boys play cricket on the street in Malabar Hill, Mumbai, November 26, 2012

Young cricketers could face difficulties with the BCCI's CMO resigning before the Vijay Merchant Trophy  •  Anthony Devlin/PA Photos

Age fudging could potentially rear its ugly head during the forthcoming Vijay Merchant Trophy with the BCCI's medical expert, who verifies players' age eligibility, stepping down nearly a month before the tournament.
ESPNcricinfo has learned that Dr. Abhijit Salvi, BCCI's chief medical officer, has resigned. Salvi moved out after the New Zealand Test series which finished on December 7 in Mumbai. He is believed to have stepped down for personal reasons. The BCCI is yet to make Salvi's exit public. The board has also not given any indication if it intends to advertise for his replacement.
The timing of Salvi's departure is significant, considering the BCCI is scheduled to conduct the Under-16 national championships, otherwise known as the Vijay Merchant Trophy, from January 9, 2022. There are 36 teams with matches spread across the country. What has this got to do with Salvi? He was in charge of the age verification process, put in place by BCCI to uproot age-fraud, a malaise that former Indian captain and current men's head coach Rahul Dravid said was "toxic" and equivalent to "fixing".
Normally, Salvi would have been busy now conducting the bone density test, otherwise known as the Tanner Whitehouse 3 method, used to determine the age of the player based on the growth of the bones in the wrist. The TW3 method is used only at Under-16 level by BCCI. The board's age-verification team's main responsibility is to tally the TW3 rating along with date of birth proof documents before submitting the final eligibility report for each player. As CMO, Salvi was the authorising head for the eligibility report.
One key potential danger of there being no medical expert interpreting and validating the eligibility process is genuine players could get disqualified for the Under-16 tournament, which could further endanger their participation in BCCI's Under-19 tournaments in the future.
Salvi, who joined the BCCI in 2012, was the one-person medical arm of the board - leading the medical and anti-doping wings. Recently, Salvi was also the CMO at the men's T20 World Cup in the UAE and Oman.
The development, though, will not have an impact on the India's tour of South Africa. While he travelled as the team doctor on India's trips to Australia in 2020-21 and then to Sri Lanka, Salvi was never meant to travel to South Africa. It is learned that the BCCI has appointed Charles Minz as the team doctor for the South Africa trip.
During the pandemic, Salvi's responsibilities stacked up massively as he had to prepare the biosafety norms for all cricket played in India, including the last two editions of the IPL. His biggest challenge came during the first half of IPL 2021, which had to be halted at the halfway stage after Covid-19 cases in the tournament bubble grew quickly.
When it came to anti-doping, the BCCI had a 24X7 helpline, which essentially was Salvi. The BCCI adopted the WADA code only in 2009 and testing in domestic cricket started in 2012 when Salvi teamed up with Vece Paes, father of the former Indian tennis player Leander. Vece Paes was then the BCCI's medical head and anti-doping manager. The pair worked hard to create an anti-doping education programme and conducted workshops in the off-season, visiting different states. It was Salvi who travelled across the country to both educate players, and emphasise on the importance of anti-doping.

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo