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28 April 2017 Editorial


28 APRIL 2017

What's cricket?

On BCCI's approach to cricket

The BCCI must take the message from the ICC's course correction on revenue-sharing

The last few months have been a chastening spell for the Board of Control for Cricket in India. The Justice R.M. Lodha reforms punctured the bubble of entitlements that some BCCI officials lived in. Even as the sport's administrators struggled to come to terms with the diktats of the Supreme Court, a big shock wave has emanated from Dubai with the International Cricket Council voting overwhelmingly in favour of changes to its governance and revenue model. All that remains is a formal ratification at the ICC's annual general body meeting in London in June. The decisions of the Dubai meeting effectively negate the BCCI's ambitious move initiated by its then president, N. Srinivasan, in 2014. The proposal had envisaged a "Big Three" governance and revenue-sharing structure that co-opted Cricket Australia and the England and Wales Cricket Board. It offered a maximum of 21% of the ICC's revenue share to the BCCI, contingent on the parent body earning $3.5 billion. It was mooted against the will of other cricket-playing nations, who are equally dedicated to the game and reluctantly resigned to playing second fiddle on account of their poor finances. In an ironic twist, it was an Indian who broke the monopoly mindset and set the wheels of change in motion.

ICC chairperson Shashank Manohar had first told this newspaper in November 2015, "I don't agree with the three major countries bullying the ICC." The latest episode in Dubai is a validation of his position that cricket cannot be held to ransom by a select few. Many years ago, social theorist Ashis Nandy wrote, "Cricket is an Indian game accidentally discovered by the British." Since then cricket has been recast as a yet more Indian sport. There is no denying that India, its fans and diaspora power the sport's commercial heart. Yet that is no excuse for the BCCI to demand an inordinately large share of the pie or to ram through its own version of the Future Tours Programme. The BCCI's was a lone dissenting voice, and it is a matter of regret that it remains narrowly obsessed with fattening its treasure chest. India needs to strengthen cricket globally, not enfeeble it. For all the talk about the phenomenal popularity of the game in India, cricket is also periodically convulsed with anxiety about the very survival of the Test and one-day international formats. Being cricket's powerhouse may give India more leverage to call the shots - but this clout comes with the responsibility to play a greater role in nurturing and spreading the game worldwide. Even a scaled-down revenue model will yield $293 million to the BCCI over an eight-year cycle. This is in addition to the Board's other revenue streams, including the profitable Indian Premier League. Dubai has offered a mirror. The BCCI must have a hard think and course-correct its approach to cricket.


In four doses

On malaria vaccines

The first malaria vaccine is cleared for pilot tests, raising hopes about wider use

Beginning next year, the World Health Organisation will begin pilot tests of the injectable malaria vaccine RTS,S (or Mosquirix) on 750,000 children aged 5-17 months in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. The vaccine has been successfully put through a Phase III trial, in which the drug is tested for safety and efficacy. Any decision on wider use will be taken based on the results of the pilot tests in the three countries. If the vaccine does indeed prove to be ready for large-scale use, it will be a milestone in the fight against malaria. Although the number of cases globally and in the African region came down by 21% between 2010 and 2015, in 2015 itself the number of deaths worldwide on account of the disease was as high as 429,000. According to WHO estimates, Africa accounted for 92% of these deaths, and 90% of the 212 million new cases that year. In such a scenario, even a vaccine with limited benefits could yield a substantial improvement. The vaccine, given in four doses, protects against Plasmodium falciparum, which is the most prevalent malaria parasite in Africa. The three countries have been chosen as they have settings with moderate-to-high transmission of malaria and already have in place malaria control programmes such as the use of bed-nets, rapid diagnostic tests and combination therapy. Each country is to decide where precisely to run the pilots.

The first three doses of the vaccine will be administered with a minimum interval of one month between each dose, followed by the fourth dose 15 to 18 months after the third dose. The first dose will be administered at about five months of age and the third dose has to be completed by nine months of age. While the drop-out rate increases as the number of doses increases, the biggest challenge is the fourth dose, which warrants a new immunisation contact to be made 15 to 18 months after the last dose. In Phase III trials, the efficacy of the vaccine was around 30% when children received all the four doses; the vaccine also reduced the most severe cases by a third. But there was a significant drop in these benefits when children did not receive the fourth dose. Given the low protection efficacy of the vaccine even in tightly controlled clinical settings, the pilot tests will be useful in evaluating the likelihood of replicating the immunisation schedule in the context of routine health-care settings. Also, the extent to which the vaccine reduces the all-cause mortality has to be evaluated as this was not "adequately addressed" during the trial. There is, specifically, a need to ascertain if excess cases of meningitis and cerebral malaria seen during the trials are causally related to the vaccination. Unlike other vaccines, the less-than-optimum protection offered by this vaccine would mean that existing malaria intervention measures will have to be used in conjunction to reduce the incidence of the disease.

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