Pakistan’s future in the upcoming U19 ICC Junior World Cup has been put in doubt after discrepancies were discovered in the ages of at least four of the players in the 15-man squad, including Captain Hasan Khan.
The revelations come in the wake of criticism over the players chosen in the team, especially the visible exclusion of players such as Muhammad Ali and Haider Ali, both of whom are top performers in the domestic circuit.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) announced the team for next year’s U19 World Cup Tuesday that included the names of Captain Hasan Khan, along with Ahmad Alam, Imran Shah and Zaryab. The above-named players had all come under scrutiny during the selection process for last year’s U19 Asia Cup in which they were declared well over the age of 19 by then team physician Doctor Riaz.
If the named players are to go to the tournament next year, they could prove to be a real liability as the Event Technical Committee chairman has the right to call in any player for examination or confirmation of age at his discretion. The penalty for the presence of multiple age-related offenders may even amount to disqualification, a humiliating exit if there ever was one.
According to International Cricket Council (ICC) rules on age determination, “If more than one player from a team is found to be over age then IDI (ICC Development International, the commercial arm of the International Cricket Council) retains the right to disqualify the whole team and the chairman of the Event Technical Committee shall notify the IDI Board accordingly.”
Hasan Khan, who is supposed to lead the team in the World Cup, has already played in the 2017 U19 Asia Cup as skipper despite having been declared over 19 before the same tournament the previous year.
Officially, as of today (Dec 6), Hasan Khan is 19 years and 51 days old. He had first burst onto the scene with his slow left-arm orthodox bowling during the Pakistan Super League (PSL) where he emerged as 17 years old. The timeline would indicate that he is indeed the age he claims, but this brings under scrutiny the role of Dr Riaz in the assessment of the players in question.
Cricket analysts have said that “no matter where the discrepancy arose, it ‘certainly began somewhere’”. If Hasan Khan and the others actually are over the ICC’s required age limit, then it is a situation which the PCB should never allow, given the very strict regulations that the ICC has been putting on junior tournaments in recent years. On the other hand, if they are indeed the correct ages, then the team physician should be held accountable for being the reason for these young players missing out on valuable ground time against international opponents.
Meanwhile, there remained great unrest amongst pundits over certain players being overlooked in the selection process and others being relegated to the reserve players’ category. Among those that have sidelined are Muhammad Ali, who recently broke a record by taking 53 scalps in a domestic season and batsman Haider Ali, who scored a mammoth 950 runs in his domestic season.