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Thursday, February 4, 2016

U19 WC - India will play Namibia ~ and did 25 year old play ?

For the Cricket fan, any match is a treat and Indians are happily looking forward to the QF against Namibia.  For those who pooh-pooh, Namibia Under-19s reached the quarter-finals with a sensational upset, pulling off a two-wicket win over South Africa Under-19s in Cox's Bazar. Defending champions South Africa, who also lost their opening game against Bangladesh, are  out of contention – not reaching QF even. The match-winner in a low-scoring game was Lohan Louwrens, who came in at 10 for 2 and scored an unbeaten 58 to steer Namibia to a target of 137. Louwrens did not receive too much support apart from Charl Brits, who scored 27 and added 52 with him for the sixth wicket, as Namibia steadily lost wickets. But he stayed there even as Brits, Chrischen Olivier and Francois Rautenbach fell in the space of 13 balls, steering Namibia home in the 40th over. Honestly, I know none of these players !

Many a times, players from this make the cut becoming a future star.  But there is one malaise – often in local tournaments [in every Sport] – there is problem of overage – players hiding their age with false certificates and competing with younger, the really eligible players !

Against Nepal, who too have qualified in the WC, opener Rishabh Pant had the fastest recorded U-19 international century comfortably in his sights when he was dismissed for 78 off 24 balls, having blown Nepal Under-19 away in a small chase. Pant did break the record for the fastest recorded U-19 fifty though, getting there in 18 balls, one faster than the previous mark. He added 124 in 9.1 overs with his captain Ishan Kishan, who scored 52 off 40 balls. India eventually chased down Nepal's score of 169 with 179 balls to spare in Mirpur.

The match was televised ….and soon after their captain Raju Rijal’s profile picture had popped up on screen, the phone lines were buzzing in the Mumbai cricket circles, writes Indian Express. There was only one question on everyone’s lips. “Is Raju Rijul actually Raju Sharma, the one who captained Mumbai’s U-15 team a decade ago?”

Javed Khan and Kaustub Pawar, two Mumbai cricketers, were startled to see the close-up of their captain from the U-15 days on screen playing for Nepal. They recognised their old team-mate along with his batting stlye and were puzzled about how Raju, who was their contemporary and should be about 25 years of age, is playing the U-19 World Cup. Pawar was moved enough to even post his incredulousness on his Facebook page. “In Mumbai Raju Sharma, In Nepal Raju Rijal,” wrote Pawar who added. “We played together in under 15 for Mumbai and now he is captain of Nepal Under 19 team and we others are 24-25 age respectively.” He hashtagged that post with #SaveCricket #Shame.

The Nepal manager, though,  flatly denied the controversy. When The Indian Express contacted him, Sudeep Sharma, said, “I am aware of this controversy. Raju though has no idea. They are not allowed to be on Facebook or anything. Anyone can write anything on social media he said while admitting that he was  aware that Rijal had played cricket in India. Incidentally, the Nepal skipper had top-scored with a 65-ball 48 to lead his team to a stunning win over New Zealand, literally knocking the fancied Kiwis out of the tournament.

An ICC official, on condition of anonymity, admitted the the world body wields no power in age determination, and that it sticks merely with procedures. “The respective boards submit the final list to the ICC. The responsibilty lies with the home board. There is no age verification system at the ICC, as far as I know,” he said.

For the record, after captaining Mumbai U-15 in November 2005, his stocks began dipping but Raju Sharma remained in the fray, attending the MCA’s U-17 and U-19 camps. He also went on to represent a number of clubs, including Bhatnagar Sports & Cultural Foundation, which is owned by MCA joint secretary PV Shetty. The MCA records show his last match for them was in 2012. As per MCA records, Sharma’s registered birth date was October 18, 1990. Rijal’s birthdate as per the U-19 World Cup records is September 26, 1996 in Dhangadi, Nepal.  Ironically, sharing the same field at Fatullah was  India’s Sarfaraz Khan. And if Rijal was who Pawar & Co. claim him to be, then Sarfaraz would have recognized him as one of the many small-town boys with cricketing talent his father, Naushad, a noted coach from Mumbai, brought home and helped shape their dreams. Mumbai’s maidan regulars say Naushad had got Raju Sharma from Varanasi in the early 2000s and mentored him for a couple of years. If that’s true and Raju Rijal is Raju Sharma, imagine Sarfaraz’s train of thoughts as he stood in the slips when the Nepal skipper was batting. [ source : http://indianexpress.com/article]

A couple of days, ICC  said it is "satisfied" that Nepal Under-19 captain Raju Rijal is eligible to play in the ongoing World Cup in Bangladesh. The ICC stated it "looked into the matter" and reviewed Rijal's documents, which had been submitted by the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) before the tournament, and concluded there was no evidence to suggest that his date of birth -  was incorrect.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

4th Feb 2016.

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