After international criticism, Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) had decided to tighten the rules for the age-group competition beginning from the next week’s Under-17 National League at Bhairahawa.

The U-15 Asia Cup winning team was found of comprising seven overaged players – the most among all participants by the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) medical tests. As a result, only wicket-keeper and opening batsman Dipen Shrestha found a spot in the U-15 Dream Team. No one from finalists Afghanistan, who fielded six overaged players are in the team.

An official of CAN in condition of anonymity revealed to The Post that only vice-captain Gyanendra Malla and Dipen from the U-15 Asia Cup winning team will be eligible to play the U-17 National League.

“We must be very serious now about the age factor,” CAN’s joint secretary and manager of Nepal’s U-15 team Laxman Bastola told The Post. “We have already decided a few things for the upcoming Under-17 nationals and had informed to the playing regions.”

CAN has asked all the district and regions to go by District Level School Examination certificate, citizenship certificate or certification of age by District Administration Office and X-Ray of player’s palm. CAN has also warned of penalties for districts and regions who field overaged players.

Malaysian Cricket Association has publicly criticized the two finalists and demanded that UAE and Malaysia, who lost in the semifinals, be jointly awarded the winner’s trophy. “Our boys feel robbed of the championship and the ACC must take this incident very seriously. Team officials and the respective associations must be punished for bringing the game to disrepute,” MCA secretary C Sivanandan said.

According to him, it was sad that officials who were supposed to uphold the spirit of the games and, most of all, the principle of fair play, were willing to stoop so low to win.

“The ACC Sports Medicine Consultant Dr. Vece Paes, during the managers’ meeting before the event in UAE, and ACC CEO Ashraful Huq during the final clearly told me that there would be no implications of the age-test in the tournament,” Bastola said adding that the other teams also fielded overaged players. “Thus I don’t think ACC is in the position to do anything about the U-15 Asia Cup.”

ACC has vowed to stop such practices and any players competating in age-group tournament now on will be screened according to physiology, bone density and dental age in order to determine the most accurate classification of a player’s age.

“It is believed that age manipulation leads to undue performance for the older players and injury risk for the younger players”, said Dr. Paes, who conducted the tests. The Age Determination Protocol is to be used by the ACC for all future U-19, U-17 and U-15 tournaments under its administration.

(As Published in today’s The Kathmandu Post)