In more bad news for the Chennai Super Kings (CSK), which has already been laid low by a COVID outbreak in its Dubai camp, Australia speedster Josh Hazlewood, one of their top overseas recruits, could be having second thoughts about travelling to the Emirates for the Indian Premier League.
A Test match regular for Australia, the tall New South Wales pacer has admitted to concerns over COVID cases in the CSK contingent. He said all CSK players are being kept updated on the COVID situation in their Dubai base through a common WhatsApp group.
The top bosses of the Chennai franchise have been sweating on the participation of their overseas stars after 13 of its members, including two players and backroom personnel, were learnt to have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Even as their training schedule was thrown into disarray, the CSK camp received further numbing news that Suresh Raina, one of their batting mainstays and marquee players, had withdrawn from the tournament citing ‘personal reasons’.
It later turned out that he voiced concerns over being confined to his hotel room and said he feared for the safety of his young family in the wake of COVID cases in the team.
While the entire CSK contingent is currently under extended quarantine, the affected players – India seamer Deepak Chahar and Maharashtra batsman Ruturaj Gaikwad – are in isolation and would be allowed back into the biosecure bubble only once they tested negative twice on recovery.
Making his concerns plain during a chat with Cricbuzz on Monday, Hazlewood said, “We have a WhatsApp group with all the information that comes through, it’s obviously a little bit of a concern.
Ideally you’d have no cases, they (the affected players) are in quarantine now and I think that finishes up in the next few days. All my focus is on this (England) tour at the moment and when the IPL comes closer, we’ll think about that (whether to play the IPL or pull out).”
Hazlewood is currently moored in the UK, along with his Australia team mates and will feature in a limited overs series against England. The IPL recruits in both the English and Australia camps are scheduled to fly out to the Emirates once the series concludes on September 16.
However, the overseas stars may be forced into a rethink on travelling to the UAE if more cases come to light.
The New South Wales quick told Cricbuzz that he and other IPL mates will hold discussions with Cricket Australia if more cases are reported. “We haven’t spoken too much about it yet, it’s a few weeks away until we get there. I assume those things (talks with Cricket Australia) will come up if cases are still happening closer to the date (of IPL’s opening tie). Then we will touch base with Cricket Australia and have a chat with Cricket Australia,” Hazlewood said.
The 29-year-old, who hasn’t featured for Australia in the shortest format since the T20 World Cup in 2016, said he is currently focused on being back in the reckoning in time for the next World Cup.
“That’s always the goal, to play every game of cricket you can for Australia. It’s probably just through opportunity that I haven’t, guess scheduling as well plays a part. But the T20 team has been going really well and as you’d expect it’s stayed pretty much the same XI. They’ve been winning most of their games and it’s a tough side to get into,” the CSK man said.
While Hazlewood still appears undecided on whether to fly to the Emirates, South Africa Test captain Francois (Faf) du Plessis and fast bowler Lungi Ngidi have joined the CSK camp, giving some respite to the team that has been thirsting for a piece of good news of late.
They arrived at the CSK’s Dubai base on Tuesday morning and will begin their mandatory quarantine period right away.
One would hope the CSK are on the last legs of their darkest phase in IPL history since the 2013 spot-fixing and betting saga, which saw the franchise being suspended for two years.