India's youngsters forced to prove age

Eyebrows have been raised, fingers pointed and a few grumbles uttered. However, until now the ages of India's emerging teenage cricketing talent have never been publicly questioned. That is about to change.

Eyebrows have been raised, fingers pointed and a few grumbles uttered. However, until now the ages of India's emerging teenage cricketing talent have never been publicly questioned. That is about to change.

With England's under-19 side ready to take the field in the first of three Tests against their Indian counterparts in Bombay next week, the Board of Control for Cricket in India has ordered the home side's squad to undergo a medical exam to verify the ages of all 14 players.

The medical test involves an X-ray of the forearm, which is said to be able to determine precisely the a level of bone development which only occurs beyond the age of 20. Such extreme measures have been decided upon following the discovery that the Haryana Under-19 team won the national youth championship last month with six players over the age limit.

There has also been considerable suspicion surrounding the ages of certain players representing the Rest of India Under-19 in the current match against England in Bombay, with some unsubstantiated reports in India claiming that three Rest of India players are over 19.

The England Under-19 camp have been quick to distance themselves from the controversy.

Their manager, Graham Saville, said: "We are pleased that the Indian board are taking this matter so seriously and we will abide by whatever conclusions they reach. But we are happy to play whatever side is selected for the Test matches because ultimately our players will gain from every experience they have on the field during this tour."

In many developing and Third World countries birth certificates are difficult to attain. Famously, the former, feared world heavyweight boxing champion, the American Sonny Liston, once told police that his real age was 20. Their many records gathered on him over his troubled years suggested he was closer to 22. Liston himself could not be sure. The only record of the true date of his birth (and that of his many siblings) had been carved on a tree in the family's yard - and the tree had since been chopped down.

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