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Age fraud in sports: Is there a solution?

Age fraud doesn’t just flout rules but also snatch opportunities from deserving players. How can one tackle this sporting malaise?

Dr Saranjeet Singh

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Manjot Kalra, who struck a match-winning century in the U-19 World Cup final in 2018, has been handed a two-year ban for age fraud.

Age fraud in sports has turned out to be a serious matter as many players misrepresent their age to participate in a tournament due to lack of opportunities. Age fraud doesn’t just flout rules but also snatch playing opportunities from deserving candidates. The country recently witnessed a shock in the form of U-19 Cricket World Cup final Man of the Match Manjot Kalra being handed a one-year ban by DDCA from all Ranji games on account of age fraud.

Rasikh Salam Dar was bought by Mumbai Indians in the player auction for 2019 Indian Premier League. He was the third cricketer from Jammu and Kashmir to be picked in IPL and at the age of 17 became the youngest player to debut for Mumbai Indians. But Dar was soon banned by BCCI for misrepresenting his age in the birth certificate.

Recently during Khelo India Youth Games, numerous complaints of age fraud surfaced. A weightlifter, whose real name has not been revealed, came up with an Aadhaar card that declared him to be eligible for the under-17 category and the same person participated in another tournament a few months ago which declared him above 17 years old. Another incident occurred in the same tournament when in a registration line around five to six boys and girls tried to use the Aadhaar card trick to participate but got rejected. The main reason for such fraud was that everyone’s eye was on the scholarship worth Rs 5 lakh.

 In 2019, several top junior athletes were among the 41 who failed the age-verification test at the 16th National Youth Athletics Championships in Raipur. It included Delhi sprinter Nisar Ahmed, a multiple gold medallist at the Khelo India Games. Jharkhand’s Aditya Prakash (110m hurdles, 400m), Rajasthan’s Ashish Poonia (hammer throw), Uttar Pradesh’s Wasim Tomar (800m) and his state-mate Lavish Kumar (200m, 400m) also suffered the same fate.

Age fraud is not only prevalent in Indian sports but internationally as well. Around 16 players were banned by Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in 2000 and eight were banned in the 2010 AFC U-16 Championship. In 2018, the Solomon Islands, which originally finished second in the 2018 OFC U-16 Championship, were found by the Oceania Football Confederation to have deliberately fielded overage player Chris Satu during the tournament and thus they forfeited their results.

Back during the Beijing Olympics in 2008, critics accused members of China’s gymnastics team of being below the age limit of 16. In gymnastics, being small and light can be a serious advantage so there’s some incentive to lie about age.

For years, scientists tried everything they could think of, looking at growing bones, white blood cells, chromosomes, checking out various molecules in the blood and so on to verify people’s ages. Nothing worked accurately. Recently, Sports Authority of India (SAI), All India Football Federation (AIFF), All India Tennis Association (AITA) and BCCI announced the introduction of Tanner Whitehouse 3 (TW3) test to tackle the menace of age fraud in sports. These sports bodies are spending millions of rupees in subjecting thousands of juniors to wrist X-rays for age determination tests which in itself is not a foolproof method for certifying age as stated by the International Olympic Committee.

TW3 test

TW3 method uses X-rays of the left hand and wrist to examine the skeletal maturity of a person and thereby determine their bone age. In wrist scans, age is estimated by looking at 20 or so bones initially separated by cartilage but which progressively move closer to one another until they fuse in the mature wrist.

Dental scans are also used to determine the maturity of wisdom teeth. These can reach full maturity as early as at the age of 15 and as late as 25 or in some cases never fully develop at all.

The TW3 method is inconclusive and unfortunately attempts to assess age with X-ray scans of teeth or wrists are doomed to failure. X-rays can provide the wrong answer about whether someone is under or over 18 up to a third of the time. The fundamental flaw with such tests is that since children grow at widely different rates skeletal maturity shown on X-rays which is used to gauge the age doesn’t necessarily match their chronological age. Teenagers can have adult bone structure as early as at the age of 15 or later than 20. Several factors (environmental and biological) influence the progression of skeletal development including genetics, race, nutrition, hormones and UV exposure as well as some diseases like Cushing’s disease. Children of Asian and African background on an average mature earlier than those of European background.

The writer is a Fitness and Sports Medicine Specialist.

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Ritu Phogat goes down to Tiffany Teo in One Championship

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India’s Ritu Phogat went down to local favourite Tiffany Teo the ONE Championship’s ONE 161 via submission at the Singapore Indoor Stadium here on Thursday.
Ritu, making an appearance in the championship for the first time after her loss to Stamp Fairtex on December 3, 2021 did not have the best of the nights as she went down to Tiffany in the atomweight category via submission with just eight second remaining on the clock in the first round.
The competitors began the bout on a cautious note. It was the Singaporean who launched the first offence as she targeted Ritu leg’s with kicks, while the Indian landed good overhand rights. After the initial back and forth action, Tiffany put Ritu down on the mat and applied the Rear-Naked Choke. Ritu did not have much choice and eventually tapped out to suffer her third career loss.

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Doubles in badminton is a specialisation: Chirag Shetty

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Chirag Shetty along with Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, are one of the most feared doubles teams on the global badminton circuit. The first men’s doubles pair from India to be ranked in the top-10 of the BWF World Ranking, Shetty and Rankireddy have won many laurels for India at the international stage including Commonwealth Games Gold, World Championship bronze and Thomas Cup triumph.
Ahead of the National Games 2022, we spoke to Chirag Shetty about his career so far and the bond that he shared with Satwik.
Here are the excerpts:
Q. Satwik and you will represent different states and will rather team up against each other. Tell us about it and how much will you miss him?
A. Definitely. We are used to being together for all the interviews. So yeah, I am missing him. Because, this time the focus is national games and we are representing our respective states.
This is the only time we will be competing for different States, I think it will be completely different competing against each other because usually we are on the same side of the court. So yeah, this time it will be quite interesting. I am representing Maharashtra and he is representing Andhra.
Q. Tell us about the camaraderie that you and Satwik share.
A. The one that we shared is well documented (Giggles). I think everybody knows how good friends we are on and off the court. I think I’ve always said that to be really good players on court you need to have a strong bonding off court as well. And I think both of us try to spend as much time as possible off the court as well to know each other better. I think that’s one of the reasons why we were able to do what we’ve done!
Q. Does your friend and relative give you advice regarding playing singles? If yes, how do you deal with it?
A. Well yeah, I think it’s quite a common thing to happen in India, especially because they keep asking me too. “Why you usually only play doubles and not play singles, because I think you can actually play singles quite well”. But not many people know that doubles in badminton is a specialisation, and the ones who play doubles, they only play doubles, whereas the ones who play singles, they only play singles. And usually, you wouldn’t see a singles player playing doubles and a doubles player playing singles. So, it’s difficult to make them understand. But we just usually nod our heads and say that, yeah, maybe next time we’ll try.
Q. Tell us about the role of Mathias Boe in your development and Indian badminton as a whole.
A. Since the time he joined us, the doubles department has done phenomenally well starting with the Thomas Cup victory followed by the Commonwealth Games and also the World Championships. And not just us, but even our second pair, Dhruv Kapila and Arjun, played a quarterfinal. It was the first time two Indian players were playing in the quarterfinals at the World Championships, and I think it’s remarkable. It’s all because of the efforts that Matthias has been putting in for the past six months.
Q. What do you think the Government should do to promote sports in the country?
A. Well, right now everything is going in the right direction if we talk off sports. It has been phenomenal. I remember our PM asking us after the Olympics to spare some time and meet young kids of different schools near our local areas, districts etc and promote fitness and sports there. And this is implemented too. So, I am satisfied.

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‘Would aim to stop team from scoring early goals in World Cup’

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The Indian men’s hockey team despite winning the silver at the 2022 Commonwealth Games had a lot to rue for. The manner in which they went down against Australia was very disheartening.
They were thrashed by seven goals and midfielder Nilankanta Sharma said that they were training hard and would aim to stop teams from scoring early goals.
“We have been going through the video tapes of our matches in CWG ever since the camp started and we have been working to make sure that we don’t concede any early goals. If we start strong, we can go on to build on our performance throughout the game,” Nilakanta said.
“We have to face quite a few strong sides in the group stage of the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar-Rourkela 2023 and we don’t want to end up feeling like we haven’t performed our best at the end so a good start is crucial for a good showing on home turf,” he stated.
India is grouped in pool D along with England, Spain and Wales and begin their campaign in Rourkela where they will take on Spain in the first game on 13th January 2023.
“Our aim at the World Cup is to get a medal, no matter what. We hope to qualify for the knockouts comfortably even though we face strong teams in the group stage and then focus on getting results against any team that stands in our way. We do have the advantage of having played most of these teams in the FIH Pro League matches and we want to take that experience onto the pitch in Odisha,” he said without mincing his words about India’s chances at the marquee event,” he added.
Nilakanta believes there is a lot of difference in playing FIH Pro League matches and World Cup. “Once we get to the quarterfinals, you cannot help but think, what if we lose, but the people in Odisha had been very supportive last time around and I will count on that support to relieve us of any pressure during the upcoming World Cup. The whole team feels that we need to keep the 2-1 loss against Netherlands in the 2018 World Cup in mind and perform well, like we did in the Olympics and Commonwealth Games. We don’t want to be participants at the World Cup, we want to win a medal and we are focused on that.”
If he makes it to the World Cup squad, Nilakanta will become the first from Manipur to play in back-to-back World Cups at home.

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Arshdeep is complete package: Reetinder Singh Sodhi

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Arshdeep Singh

Arshdeep Singh is currently the toast of the nation for the way he performed in the opening T20I against South Africa.
Arshdeep was the pick of the bowlers for India and he ran through the South African top-order to have them reeling at 9-5 at one stage. He was superb with the new ball and his wickets never allowed South Africa to get back into the match and they eventually ended their innings at 106-8.
The young Punjab speedster ended the match with figures of 3-32 in four overs. His performance is being applauded by pundits and experts including former Indian international Reetinder Singh Sodhi.
Sodhi hailed the left-arm seamer for his performance and felt that despite being new to international cricket, he is performing at a very top level which is a great sign for Indian cricket.
Talking during a cricket special show on India News presented by Dafanews, Sodhi said, “His morale was really down post Asia Cup but the way he performed in this match talks a lot about his mentality. He overcame all that happened during the Asia Cup and made a brilliant comeback. He is mentally very strong which is a sign of a good player.”
“He knew exactly what he was doing as we often see that when there is pace and bounce on the wickets, bowlers tend to pull their length back. But he did very well to bowl the perfect line on this pitch and made the batters play on the rise allowing the ball to swing,” he added.
Arshdeep was on fire and took the wickets of Quinton de Kock, Rilee Rossouw and David Miller in his very first over of the match to break the back of the Proteas.
“South African batsmen had no clue what the bowlers were doing. They lacked technique and they were not able to move their feet well against the moving ball. To play on these kinds of tracks, one needs to have sound technique and be precise with his shot selection which was nowhere to be seen when they were batting,” Sodhi explained.
Sodhi believes India’s bowling department is well covered and has the required depth to challenge for the T20 World Cup in Australia later this year.
“This is the kind of bowling which is required in Australia for the T20 World Cup. The way Deepak Chahar and Arshdeep bowled in the match, it shows the options and depth in Indian bowling attack,” he added.

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Suryakumar Yadav becomes India’s leading T20 run-getter in calendar year

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Talented Indian top order batter Suryakumar Yadav added another feather to his illustrious cap as he overtook veteran opener, Shikhar Dhawan, to score most runs for India in the shortest format in a calendar year.
He reached this landmark during India’s first T20i of the three-match series against South Africa. In the match, Suryakumar smashed an unbeaten 50 off 33 balls at a strike rate of 151.52 on a tricky pitch during a chase of 107 runs. His knock consisted of five fours and three sixes.
This knock has taken his run tally in 2022 to 732 runs in 21 innings at an average of 40.66. One century and five half-centuries have come from his bat. His best individual score in the format this year is 117.
He has overtaken the tally of Shikhar Dhawan’s 689 runs at an average of 40.52 in 2018. The left-hander had scored six half-centuries in 18 matches.
Both these batters are followed by Virat Kohli (641 runs in 2016), skipper Rohit Sharma (590 in 2018) and Rohit once again (497 runs in 2016 and 2022).
Suryakumar also is the fourth-highest run scorer in T20I cricket in a calendar year, behind Ireland’s Paul Stirling (748 runs in 2019), Pakistan skipper Babar Azam (939 runs in 2021) and number one T20I batter Mohammad Rizwan from Pakistan (1,321 runs in 2021).

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Bumrah likely to be ruled out of T20 World Cup

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Jasprit Bumrah

Indian bowling spearhead Jasprit Bumrah is unlikely to travel to Australia for the T20 World Cup starting on October 16th.
Bumrah, who has already been ruled out of the ongoing home T20 series against South Africa of back injury, will have to spend much more time on the sidelines than what was expected before.
While BCCI has not officially confirmed the decision, it has been learnt that Bumrah has picked up stress fracture in the back and is all but ruled out of the mega event Down Under. Bumrah had not travelled with the team for the opening T20I against South Africa, played at the Greenfield International Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday.
Bumrah, who had also ruled out of the Asia Cup 2022 due to his back problem, and was training at the National Cricket Academy, played the last two T20Is against Australia. He was far from his best in the series and in the last match of the series gave away 50 runs in his stipulated four overs, which is the most expensive T20I figures.
Bumrah’s injury comes at a crucial time for India and will further deplete the bowling line-up with Ravindra Jadeja already ruled out. With Bumrah likely to miss out, it is quite possible that Mohd. Shami who was named as a standby in the World Cup squad will be drafted in the main squad.

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