I came across this article on the internet today. It piqued my interest both as a cricketer and a lawyer.
The case is that of a young cricketer, Sagar Chhabria, who had challenged the BCCI’s process for verification of age before the Mumbai High Court. The Court rejected his birth certificate and his passport as proof of his date of birth and held that the BCCI’s process for verification of age was conclusive and binding.
By way of background, the BCCI’s process is the Tanner-Whitehouse Test which is used to measure bone density. Apparently this has been in place since 2012. A report from another similar case from September 2015, says that the Tanner-Whitehouse test apparently has an accuracy of plus/minus six months.
Sagar’s Tanner-Whitehouse test said he was 16 years and 6 months old and therefore ineligible to play in the under-16 category.
Let me tell you another story.
Back in 2002-2003, I was selected (after about fifteen rounds of trials and a rather surprising run of match-winning performances for my district team) to attend the Haryana state under-17 team camp in Rohtak.
To be clear, the cut-off for being considered under-17 was being born after 1 September 1985 and I was under the age limit since I only turned 17 the next month (October 19th is my birthday for those of you who would like to buy me a belated birthday gift). Also, I scored an unbeaten half century in a district game on my 17th birthday so I do remember it pretty clearly. [The next day’s papers carried the unforgettable headline “Gurgaon ne Bhiwani ko nau wickaton se raunda” (Gurgaon grinds Bhiwani by 9 wickets)]
By way of abundant precaution, a few of us were sent by the district association to the official testing centre in Rohtak at the start of October. The centre took X-rays and checked the fusion of our joints. Now I am not a doctor but the report at the start of October basically said that the fusion of my joints indicated that I was under-17 at the time.
Fast-forward a couple of months. We are all in Rohtak, practicing twice a day – fielding and fitness in the morning and batting and bowling in the evening. One random evening, 11 out of the 18 players in the squad were told to pack up their stuff and leave because they were “over-age”.
I was one of them.
The unconfirmed rumour was the selectors wanted their guys in, even though they had not performed at the district level. Some others said that politicians or bureaucrats were pulling strings. Who knows what the truth really was?
Anyway, I climbed onto the roof of a state transport bus with another friend of mine and we made our way back to Gurgaon in the middle of the night. There was anger, betrayal and frustration but there was nothing to be gained by taking the association to court. That would spell the end of your career anyway. I didn’t have any pull/approach/jugaad which could fix things. That was pretty much the end of my semi-professional cricketing career.
All I had was a class X board certificate, a birth certificate and a passport issued by the Indian government to prove my date of birth.
Just like Sagar Chhabria.
Yes, we don’t want age-cheats popping up all over the place but an estimated age approach with a six month window, leaving the door open for selectorial randomness and allegations of nepotism is no solution either.
Sorry the law let you down, Sagar. Hope you go on to achieve greater things.