The Covid-19 crisis at the Chennai Super Kings has brought their five-day camp at the Chepauk stadium from August 16 in sharp focus. There has been no direct correlation established yet between the camp and the positive tests, but its location - in the Triplicane area of Chennai, a Covid-19 hotspot in one of the worst-affected cities of India - will raise questions about whether it was necessary at all.
It is now evident that the Super Kings management was wary about holding the camp, which went ahead on captain MS Dhoni's insistence. "When the tournament dates were announced, I had reservations about conducting the camp here because the bio-bubble had to be created," Kasi Viswanathan, the Super Kings CEO, told in a video uploaded on their YouTube channel on August 26. "In fact I sent a message to him [Dhoni] whether it would be worthwhile having a camp for five days before going to Dubai. But the captain was crystal clear in his thoughts.
"He said, 'Sir, we have not played for nearly four-five months. All of us need to get together in Chennai. We should be in a bio-bubble in Chennai so that we get used to that when we land in Dubai.'"
In a way, the Super Kings have been unfortunate because the members of the party that have tested positive returned negative tests on at least six occasions before the eventual test that has sent them into this crisis. However, that only underlines the unpredictability around the spread of the disease.
Chennai has 131,869 recorded Covid-19 cases, as of August 28, and 2690 related deaths. The neighbourhood of the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chepauk, especially Triplicane, is heavily congested and severely affected by Covid-19. In July, the area around the stadium was identified as a containment zone and all roads were sealed off. Quite a few of the ground staff at Chepauk come from neighbouring lanes in Triplicane.
The incubation period for the virus can extend to up to a month, so an infection during the camp cannot be ruled out. Apart from Dhoni, who announced his international retirement at the start of the camp, those present included Suresh Raina, Deepak Chahar, Shardul Thakur, Ambati Rayudu, M Vijay and L Balaji, the bowling coach. Harbhajan Singh and Ravindra Jadeja had opted out for personal reasons.
Once they cleared the preliminary tests, the players moved around freely at the stadium; videos uploaded by the franchise's various social media handles have shown the players not wearing masks or observing social distancing.
No other IPL team organised an official camp before leaving for the UAE barring a couple of smaller exceptions. Kings XI Punjab's five Bengaluru-based players trained with their coach Anil Kumble in Bengaluru, while Mumbai Indians held some practice sessions featuring Rohit Sharma, and Zaheer Khan working with Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya at the Reliance Corporate Park in the outskirts of Mumbai.