Inside Story

IPL 2020: CSK’s worries grow as players become wary

Written by Sumit Seth

Suresh 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.

“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.

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.

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.”

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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Sumit Seth