In a double whammy for the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) camp, which has already been forced into an extended quarantine after, at least 12 members, including India pacer Deepak Chahar, were found to have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, their batting mainstay Suresh Raina pulled out of the Indian Premier League (IPL) on a day another team member contracted the dreaded virus.
While the official word from CSK officials was that the southpaw withdrew from the tournament citing personal reasons, it is understood that the COVID cases among team members and personnel might have forced him into a decision to pick the well-being of himself and his family over the game.
Before the CSK fans could even come to terms with news of Raina’s exit came word that 23-year-old Ruturaj Gaikwad, a promising batsman from Maharashtra who had been drafted into the squad this year, had tested positive for the virus.
In what could darken the clouds of uncertainty over the tournament even more, reports claimed several other big names could be considering a pullout, following Raina’s lead.
Gaikwad took a fourth COVID test along with teammates and the entire CSK support staff on Friday. The test results were made known on Saturday. The 23-year-old has been one of the most consistent young batters in the domestic circuit and even served notice of his talent turning out for India A.
An official communication by the CSK said Raina took a flight back to India after informing the management that he would take no further part in the tournament.
A post on the CSK’s official Twitter page read, “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.”
The Chennai franchise, which lost to Mumbai Indians in the title-decider last year, had completed their mandatory seven days of quarantine upon landing in the Emirates and were supposed to hit training on Friday. However, their training schedule was thrown haywire after word of positive cases in the camp.
It now turns out that they would only be allowed to begin training on September 1. As per the health protocols in place, Chahar and Gaikwad would have to stay in isolation for 14 days and take two COVID tests in a matter of days. Only after clearing the tests will they be allowed to enter the biosecure bubble and cleared to play.
While the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the IPL Governing Council are adamant that the tournament is on, a flood of exits or more confirmed COVID cases could put the immediate future of the tournament in peril.
The health scare in the CSK camp has already raised question marks on the efficacy and enforcement of the standard operating procedures (SOPs) that have been put in place to ensure safety of players and their support staff.
As per the SOPs, members of all franchises had to take a COVID test before departing for the Emirates and three more, within days of each other, upon landing.
Speaking to news agency PTI, a BCCI official voiced his displeasure over a preparatory camp that was arranged by the CSK in Chennai. “CSK practised three days in Chennai. Was there any tangible gain achieved from that camp?” the official was quoted as saying by PTI.
Blame game apart, the events over the last couple of days will not only raise grave doubts on the prospects of Season 13 of the IPL but also questions on whether the BCCI, in its rush to hold the cash-rich tournament, compromised on player safety.