Raju Sharma or Raju Rijal? Nepal Manager dismisses allegations

Age fudging is a serious issue in sports and very recently it was addressed by India’s Under-19 coach Rahul Dravid in the Patuadi Memorial Lecture. He might not have anticipated it that soon he is going to witness something similar from close quarters. On Monday, when India Under-19 side were locked in a battle against the Nepal Under-19 side in the ongoing ICC World Cup Under-19 2016, Mumbai cricketer Kaustubh Pawar was more than shocked to see his captain from Under-15 days playing for Nepal. He shared a post on social media that created quite a stir in the cricket community.

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…

Posted by Kaustub Pawar on Sunday, 31 January 2016

In a report from Times of India, Naushad Khan, renowned coach and father of Under-19 Indian cricketer Sarfaraz Khan, said that he had invited Raju Sharma from Uttar Pradesh to play in Mumbai. As alleged by many from Mumbai’s cricket fraternity, Raju Sharma is Raju Rijal, who is captaining Nepal at the moment.

As alleged Raju’s teammates were Iqbal Abdulla, Sufiyan Shaikh, Javed Khan, Siddharth Prasad, Aamir Boraniya, Ronak Sharma, Tanmay Jadhav and Pawar, who went on to make the claim on Facebook.

Even all-rounder Javed Khan seconded him. He told TOI, “Of course he is overage. I remember playing under him for Mumbai’s U-15 squad. Me, Sufiyaan, Kaustubh and Raju have played many matches together. I simply cannot understand how he is still U-19.”

Here is what Naushad had to say: “I had taken over Anjuman-e-Islam as coach. My brief was to prepare a crack side. So I started getting kids from UP and started training them. I ensured that they not only get to play quality cricket but also ensured they studied in a good atmosphere. I picked Raju and spent a lot of hours with him during training.

Our efforts paid off when he was picked for Mumbai’s U-15 squad. But I am surprised to know that he is leading Nepal in the U-19 World Cup. It is unfair on kids who are genuinely U-19.”

According to Mumbai cricket’s records, Raju Sharma was born on October 18, 1990 at Ramnagar in Maharashtra, whereas according to Raju Rijal’s official records, he was born on September 26, 1996 at Dhangadi in Nepal.

Nepal’s version

When asked this, Raju did not wish to comment on the allegations. He said, “I don’t have any idea about this. I am not in social media [As Pawar accused Raju via Facebook]. So I cannot comment on this.”

However the Nepal team’s manager Sudeep Sharma dismissed the controversy as baseless. When Indian Express contacted him, he 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. Does he (Kaustub Pawar) have any evidence? He should produce evidence to back his claim. Maybe he has some problem with Raju.”

Raju was the star with a fighting 48 when the Nepal side upset New Zealand last week. However if these allegations are indeed true then one can expect the opening of a Pandora’s box, which in turn will benefit the game.