'The age fudging issue is a major problem. I see it having an adverse impact on the development of cricketers and the continued participation of more deserving people in the game.'
'The BCCI needs to make a rule that birth certificates are eligible only if they are dated within two years of the child's birth.'
India Under-19 coach Rahul Dravid strongly believes that the recent decision by the Board of Control for Cricket in India's working committee to put a cap on players getting only one shot at the colts' World Cup will prevent age fudging by players.
Ravindra Jadeja (2006 & '08), Vijay Zol ('12 and '14), Sandeep Sharma ('10 and '12), Sarfaraz Khan ('14 and '16), Ricky Bhui ('14 and '16) and Avesh Khan ('14 and '16) are some players in recent times who have played in two Under-19 global meets.
"Being allowed to play only one Under-19 World Cup will mean people are less motivated to alter the age. Honestly, Under-19 cricket should be more about exposure and less about results.
"The focus should be on giving more youngsters an opportunity to play rather than on winning. And that's what this new rule will result in. The long term results of this step will far outweigh the potential loss of results in the short term," Dravid, who has been very vocal on the issue, said.
The 43-year-old former India captain is glad that the BCCI has made it a rule, saying it will have a positive impact on cricketers of coming generations.
"Really glad that the BCCI is taking some steps to try to address the over-age issue. There is no quick fix to it but at least a step in the right direction has been taken. The age fudging issue is a major problem and I see it having an adverse impact on the development of cricketers and the continued participation of more deserving people in the game."
Just how deep-rooted the malaise is could be understood by the fact that Dravid wants the BCCI to ensure that they accept any birth certificate issued by competent authority within two years from his date of birth.
"Another practice that is prevalent is people getting young kids at 10-12 to change schools and obtain new birth certificates. Unfortunately, I have heard that getting a new birth certificate isn't too hard. The BCCI needs to make a rule that birth certificates are eligible only if they are dated within two years of the child's birth.
"We might miss out on a few authentic guys who for some reason haven't been able to obtain a birth certificate, but it will be a strong deterrent to the many wrongdoers and will make age group cricket a much fairer reflection of talent," Dravid reasoned.
For Dravid, any cricketer, who has played two years of junior cricket at national competitions, should be good enough to graduate to the next level -- if not senior -- then at least Under-23.
"The move to allow players who enter the set up only at the Under-19 level to play only two years of Under-19 cricket is not a bad idea but needs to be monitored and evaluated at the ground level.
"We have heard of instances where players skip the bone test at the Under-16 level and play many years at the Under-19 level. This may prove a deterrent to those kind of people. Cricketers at that level, if they are good enough, two years of Under-19 cricket should be enough for them to graduate to the next level," explained the scorer of more than 24,000 international runs.
"In any case, there are Under-23 matches which provide another platform. There is no purpose being served by having youngsters continue to play 3-4 years at the Under-19 level especially if they have entered the scene after the age of 16-17," he said.
India have won the Under-19 World Cup thrice and been runners-up on one occasion, but the current Under-19 national coach wants that focus should be more on junior players getting to play a lot of days' cricket.
"One way to strengthen the junior cricket set up is to shift the focus from the Under-19 World Cup and have more tours with more long form cricket and not just One-day cricket.
"The team selected for these tours need not necessarily be the best 15 always but selected from a wider pool of about 20-25 players. We should look at these series to give opportunities to more youngsters to give them a taste of international cricket at the junior level."
Touring overseas from an early age helps players develop proper temperament.
"Having more kids tour overseas will mean more future first class cricketers would have experienced playing in different conditions and that will certainly help in improving domestic cricket as well. Apart from the cricket, it will give a chance for more youngsters to experience other cultures which will aid their overall development."