The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has finally reacted to all the discussion about fast bowler Naseem Shah's age on social media. However, their reactions have been especially directed towards some former Indian cricketers who raised this issue, albeit in a jocular manner, on social media.
Wasim Khan, the chief executive of PCB, has hit out at those doubting the veracity of Naseem's billed age and has presented his lack of facial hair as the evidence.
"You only need to look at his face. He's hardly got any growth on his face. In terms of that (age), people question it no doubt, just because of his age and the fact that he's a mature lad and the fact that he's playing international cricket at this age. But the bottom line is he's 16 years old and he's playing. We don't really care what India think," Wasim stated in response to a question on the matter.
This statement is prompted by what former India cricketer Mohammad Kaif had written on Twitter.
"Looks a terrific prospect. But is 16 now, aging backwards I think," Kaif said in his reaction to the surfacing of a tweet by Pakistani sports journalist Saj Sadiq, originally posted in December 2018, where he had described Naseem as a '17-year old bowler.'
However, it is downright silly for PCB and their officials to narrow down this issue to just this one comment. The concerns about age fraud in Pakistan are serious and many ex-cricketers of the country have accepted that this is a widespread malice.
The man who used to be the butt of all jokes regarding his age – Shahid Afridi – accepted in his autobiography that his officially listed age was less than his actual one.
In the case of Naseem, it's not just the tweet by Saj Sadiq which is troubling. The picture of an old article published in 2016 in the Dawn newspaper has also been shared which contains a quote by West Indian legend Andy Roberts where he praises a 16-year old fast bowler called Naseem. Both these quotes do suggest that Naseem's age may not be, as claimed, 16.
Certainly, the way he bowls and the pace he bowls at, Naseem does seem to be ahead of his years, if they are what has been announced. But unless there is a proper investigation, it won't be known clearly to anyone what the real age of this young man is. It's about time PCB paid attention to this issue rather than blaming Indians for raising it.