The menace of age fudging is once again threatening to rock Indian cricket, with reports emerging that U19 World Cup-winner Rajvardhan Hangargekar changed his official age in order to feature in the quadrennial event.
According to a report published in Saamna newspaper, the allegations have been made by the Commissioner of Sports and Youth Department, Omprakash Bakoria.
The IAS officer has reportedly sent a letter to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), alleging that Hangargekar is 21 years old, along with evidence.
In the letter, Bakoria claimed that Dharashiv Chief Executive Officer Rahul Gupta has confirmed that the seam-bowling all-rounder is 21 years old and not 19, as was claimed by him in the documents submitted to the Indian Board.
According to Bakoria, Hangargekar did his schooling at Terna Public School, Dharshiv. As per school records, Hangargekar's date of birth from class 1st to 7th was January 10, 2001.
However, it was changed to November 10, 2002, when he applied for re-admission in Class 8th.
Hangargekar was one of the many shining lights for Team India in the recent U-19 World Cup campaign. He claimed five wickets in six games besides smashing 52 runs in three innings at a strike-rate of 185.71.
He was recently picked by the Chennai Super Kings for a sum of ₹1.5 Crore. If the allegations prove to be correct, then the seam-bowling all-rounder could find himself in a lot of trouble.
According to an order passed by the BCCI in August 2020, the apex board will grant amnesty to a player who admits that he fudged age by submitting fake documents. However, if the player does not admit on his own but is found guilty on investigation, then he could face a two-year ban.
Rajvardhan Hangargekar isn't the first Indian player to be embroiled in age fudging
Age fraud has been a menace not just in India, but in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan as well.
The star of the 2018 U19 World Cup final, Manjot Kalra, was caught in a similar controversy back in 2019. It came following a complaint by former Delhi skipper Kirti Azad's faction, which alleged that Kalra had been fudging his age since the U16 level.
He was eventually banned from age-group cricket and Ranji Trophy for one season by DDCA Ombudsman Justice (Retd) Badar Durrez Ahmed in December 2019.
However, last year, Justice Verma overturned the decision on an interim basis.
"In view of facts and circumstances, order dated 16.12.2019 deserves to be modified to the extent that without furnishing any undertaking by Manjot Kalra, he will be allowed to participate for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy and all other open age group category matches until further orders.” said Justice Verma while announcing the judgement.