Fudged age.

Banglore: The scheme allows those who own up to play in the older age group and avoid 2-year-ban.

To curb age fraud, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has come out with a Voluntary Disclosure Scheme for registered players, like the one that exists for income tax defaulters. The aim of the scheme is to get cricketers to own up to falsification in their date of birth. If they do so before September 15 this year, they would not face a two-year ban and will be allowed to play in age-group tournaments they are eligible for in the upcoming season.

One of the driving forces behind this offer is former India skipper Rahul Dravid, now the head (cricket) at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore. Last season, the BCCI imposed two-year bans on 250 players, the most ever.

Dr Abhijit Salvi, the BCCI anti-doping, age verification and medical consultant, says brainstorming sessions started in October and culminated 10 months later with new measures being announced on Monday.

“All along, myself, Rahul Dravid, Saba Karim (GM cricket operations), and the previous management have been thinking of ways to counter age fraud. We had many meetings and decided on bringing out these new guidelines. In future, we may realise that something more needs to be done. We will add those,” Salvi told The Indian Express.

Under the disclosure scheme, if an under-16 cricketer admits age fraud, he or she has to write to the BCCI, attach supporting documents like a birth certificate or school marksheets, and can play in older age-groups following verification.

According to Salvi, the scheme gives budding players a chance to come clean as they would have been too young to realise the consequences of fudging their age.

“A lot of times, we found out that at the under-16 level, the coaches or academy owners get these boys and girls to change their date of birth, make them two or three years younger. At that point of time, these poor kids do not know, they just follow instructions. Somebody else gets those fake certificates for them. Eventually, we catch them and they get banned. In order to give them a second chance, we have done this,” Salvi said.

Dravid was quoted as saying in a BCCI release that "age-fraud is detrimental to the health of the sport, Age fraud is a serious matter and is detrimental to the health of the sport. Many youngsters who are supposed to be playing in a particular age group fail to make it owing to age fraud. With the BCCI taking stern actions to curb this, it is only advisable for the players to come forward and abide by the directives issued by the Board.”

BCCI president Sourav Ganguly said: “We are committed to providing a level-playing field across all age groups.”

The growing numbers of players banned for falsifying age was partly because of the launch of a dedicated helpline for tip-offs. Verification of 5,000 age-related documents were done last season by Salvi and his team, with 5 per cent proving to be fake.