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Matter of policy: BCCI’s bone density test for age deemed admissible by Bombay High Court

Your real age is what your bone density test says you are.

The above is the edict of the Bombay High Court dismissing a petition from young cricketer Sagar Chhabria challenging his declared ineligibility for an Under-16 tournament.

The Tanner-Whitehouse Test (TW3) determined that Sagar was in fact 16-and-a-half and thus overage.

Honourable judges, SC Dharmadhikari and Justice BP Colabawalla,  declared that chronological age such as birth certificates and passport are insufficient—specifically for sporting activities.

Wikipedia states:

“Bone age is the degree of maturation of a child’s bones. As a person grows from fetal life through childhood, puberty, and finishes growth as a young adult, the bones of the skeleton change in size and shape. These changes can be seen by x-ray. The ‘bone age’ of a child is the average age at which children reach this stage of bone maturation. A child’s current height and bone age can be used to predict adult height. For most people, their bone age is the same as their biological age but for some individuals, their bone age is a couple years older or younger. Those with advanced bone ages typically hit a growth spurt early on but stop growing early sooner while those with delayed bone ages hit their growth spurt later than normal. Kids who are below average height do not necessarily have a delayed bone age; in fact their bone age could actually be advanced which if left untreated, will stunt their growth.”

Bone age is determined by comparing hand x-rays against an atlas of bone x-rays.

The Tanner-Whitehouse Test (TW3) has a 96% success rate in males and 98% in females. The classification process was tested with 50 left-hand wrist images. Details can be found in the research paper  Estimation of Skeletal Maturity by Tanner and Whitehouse Method by V.Karthikeyan, V.J.Vijayalakshmi and P.Jeyakumar.

The esteemed judges said:

“Chronological of birth through public documents cannot provide absolute right for selection in a sports activity, when the petitioner completely knew about the medical test laid down by the BCCI in regards to selection process for which he had signed up.”

(FIFA introduced Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans for the Under-17 World Cup in 2009. MRI scans are believed to be 99% accurate for 17 years and below.)

Chhabria did not challenge the methods of the test or the experts employed by the BCCI to make the correct deduction.

The cricketer was opposed to an ‘excessive’ policy which also meant that the BCCI enjoyed a monopoly while determining whether Chhabria should be allowed to participate in sports tournaments or not.

The BCCI defended itself claiming that the test was in use across different states and was not particular to the Mumbai Cricket Association. Moreover, the test had an in-built corrective mechanism wherein a third expert could be called in to if the first two experts differed in their opinion.

The judges added that the challenge could only be entertained if there was no prior rule or policy.

“However once participation is dependent on policy, then parties like the petitioner cannot bypass the same or call upon the court to do so.”

Sagar Chhabria is a Bandra resident. The petition was filed through his father.

The BCCI’s advocates said that Chhabria was , however, eligible to take part in Under-19 tournaments.

The BCCI does not employ the TW3 test at the Under-19 level.

According to an article in the Mumbai Mirror, “the so-called ‘fool-proof testing’ has not apparently worked well at the under-19 stage.”

The BCCI had over 2000 litigations from Under-19 players with regards to age testing using the said method.

A BCCI official said:

“The protocol for the under 19 players is valid certification — valid school leaving and birth certificates. The point is testing at under 19 level is a futile exercise and the accuracy of the results are questioned by the players who are resorting to legal recourse, if found overaged.”

The testing was undertaken at both levels following a directive from the ministry of sports.

The official added:

“The ministry of sports has sent us a directive to verify height, weight, dental age, physical and physiological state of the players and do X-rays and MRI scans. It would cost a lot and there is no guarantee over its accuracy, particularly at under 19 level. The board wants U-16 to be the entry point but the point is if someone flunks age-test at the under 16 level, one can always make himself available three years later at under 19 level with fake birth certificates.”


I have been an IT professional with over 12 years professional experience. I'm an B.Sc. in Statistics, M.Sc in Computer Science (University of Mumbai) and an MBA from the Cyprus International Institute of Management. I'm also a finance student and have completed levels I and II of the CFA course. Blogging is a part-time vocation until I land a full-time position. I am also the author of three books, Those Glory Days: Cricket World Cup 2011, IPL Vignettes and Poems: An Anthology, all available on Amazon Worldwide.


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