Overage business is dangerous and toxic: Rahul Dravid

Rahul Dravid draws parallel between age fudging at junior level and match fixing/corruption in senior cricket

New Delhi: Former India skipper Rahul Dravid yesterday called upon the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to formulate a blueprint for junior cricket and said it was imperative to remove age fudging and illegal bowling action at that level for the development of Indian cricket.

Rahul Dravid
Rahul Dravid

Dravid said that age fudging and the ability of coaches to correct faulty bowling action had a detrimental affect on Indian cricket and it was high time that corrective measures are taken to address the issue.

"I think of this overage business is dangerous and even toxic, and to me gives rise to a question: If a child sees his parents and coaches cheating and creating a fake birth certificate, will he not be encouraged to become a cheat? He is being taught to lie by his own elders," Dravid said while delivering the fourth MAK Pataudi Memorial Lecture here.

"At 14 it may be in the matter of the age criteria, at 25 it may be fixing and corruption. How are the two different in any way? In both cases, is it not blatant cheating?

Deeply upset
"When I hear about some under-19 bowlers being reported for a suspect action, it upsets me deeply. What were the coaches doing until the boy got to that age — 17-18-19?

"Did his faulty action begin at the age of 10 years old, because his coach had him bowl the full 22 yards? Then as he grew up did his next bunch of coaches just let it go because the boy kept getting wickets and winning tournaments?," Dravid said.

"So, at 19, when an eager, hard-working boy could have played the junior World Cup, he is left trying to correct his action instead. Did this collection of short-term goals achieved through short-cuts hurt the child because as adults we turned a blind eye?" he said.

The former India captain spoke at length on the issues pertaining to junior level and said he is now getting a first hand feel of junior cricket after being appointed as the coach of the under-19 cricket team.

Both the Indian and South African cricket teams, top BCCI officials and a host of dignitaries were present at the event, which was also graced by the late Pataudi's wife Sharmila Tagore.

Talking about the issue of suspected bowling action, Dravid said: "Like the issue of bowling actions, it is a similar emphasis on short-term results that has led to the scourge of overage players in junior matches. That entire exercise begins when a coach alters a player's date of birth so that he can take part in a local tournament. The parents are happy to accept the value of an extra year or two, particularly in junior cricket and, academically at middle school.

The side effects
"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 said.

Dravid said not many kids have a support system like Sachin Tendulkar had during his formative years. "Sachin was different. Talent-wise, he was a freak. Everything about his rise to the Indian team, the inevitability of his success was beyond the ordinary. It was phenomenal and to us who were his age, it was almost scary. What people tend to forget is that Sachin had a great support system."

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