IPL 2020: Suresh Raina pulls out, CSK’s worries grow as players become wary

Chennai Super Kings’ Suresh Raina pulled out of the Indian Premier League (IPL) citing ‘personal reasons’ on Saturday as BCCI confirmed that 13 personnel, including two players, had tested positive for Covid-19.

Reports said the former India batsman’s uncle died and aunt is in serious condition following an attack on them 10 days ago in their home near Pathankot. The player or CSK did not confirm whether the incident was behind Raina flying home.

IPL 2020 Full Coverage

Raina is the first to drop out of this year’s edition, being held in the UAE from September 19-November 10 due to the Covid-19 situation in India, but may not be the last, league sources said.

“Suresh Raina has returned to India for personal reasons and will be unavailable for the remainder of the IPL season. Chennai Super Kings offers complete support to Suresh and his family during this time,” CSK CEO, KS Viswanathan, tweeted.

“Senior spinner Harbhajan Singh who is in India and did not take part in CSK’s preparatory camp in Chennai (Aug 15-20) is worried whether to participate in the tournament or not,” a source close to the player said. He is expected to join the team in the UAE on Tuesday.

Many players, mostly foreigners, are yet to join their teams in the UAE, and some among them are bound to be in a dilemma like Harbhajan whether or not to play amid the pandemic. The league was first postponed from April-May and then shifted out of India.

Also read: Suresh Raina’s relative dies in attack by robbers, four sustain injuries

BCCI said: “(A) total of 1,988 RT-PCR COVID tests were carried out between August 20—28 across all participant groups in the UAE. These groups include players, support staff, team management, BCCI staff, IPL operational team, hotel and ground transport staff…. All the affected personnel and their close contacts are asymptomatic and have been isolated from other team members. They are being monitored by the IPL medical team.”

All those who have tested positive are said to be from CSK with India pacer Deepak Chahar and Ruturaj Gaikwad—a prolific India A batsman from Pune—the two players among them, an official said. The quarantine period for the team that reached Dubai on Aug 21 should have ended on Friday, but is expected to be extended. All may have to test negative for the team to enter the bio-bubble and start training.

CSK slip-up?

While athletes and officials testing Covid positive is not uncommon in sports events being held worldwide, an official on IPL duty in the UAE wondered whether the Chennai franchise had strictly followed BCCI-prescribed protocols.

“Covid has an incubation period of 14 days so anybody can test positive after initial tests have returned negative, and even with all precautions in place. But with so many positive cases in the CSK camp, the question is if they were being careless,” the official said. “The protocols for movement were already strict and it is bound to get stricter.”

Also read: Delhi Capitals reveal exclusive look of Team Room in UAE hotel

CSK’s social media handle has posted pictures of players not wearing masks or adopting social distancing at the airport and inside the flight, though they are wearing masks while on way to the airport. Players of many other teams wore PPE kits even on the flight. CSK also held a camp in Chennai from August 15-20 that is under the scanner.

Wearing a PPE kit is not mandatory while travelling as per BCCI’s Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) but social distancing and face mask are. The directive is: “Wearing a triple-layered mask in public places is mandatory for all. Consider using chartered flights from India to UAE for the players and support staff. Follow seat spacing and social distancing protocols on the flight.”

Many CSK players, in images posted on their Twitter handles, can be seen chatting with squad members seated on adjacent seats and sharing snacks.

BCCI listening?

A couple of days ago a India U-19 player who is part of a former champion side, posted a picture with a teammate in his hotel room. That image has since been deleted. According to BCCI’s SOP, players must remain in isolation during the quarantine period. But with many seen flouting the rules, it remains to be seen if BCCI takes action.

“Breach of any bio-secure environment protocols by players and team support staff will be punishable under the IPL Code of Conduct Rules,” says the BCCI SOP. The IPL schedule is yet to be announced and the league’s response to the spate of positive cases will be keenly awaited.

With CSK as the 2019 runners-up due to play the inaugural match against Mumbai Indians on September 19, it will be tough for BCCI to plan the schedule.

Already due to stricter Covid-19 testing rules in Abu Dhabi, IPL venue along with Dubai and Sharjah, there is confusion about the schedule. Abu Dhabi requires an individual to test negative 48 hours before entering the Emirate. That has raised doubts how six of the eight teams staying in Dubai—norms there are more relaxed—will conduct its tests and travel for matches in Abu Dhabi.

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