Chennai Super Kings owner N Srinivasan has said he believes Suresh Raina's return to India from the UAE on Friday would not impact the team's preparations ahead of the IPL season. However Srinivasan, a former BCCI president and ICC chairman, said Raina would "certainly realise" what he would be missing, including the "money he is going to lose" by skipping the IPL.
Srinivasan also said the Super Kings were confident about their prospects for the season because MS Dhoni, the captain, was "unfazed" not just by the Raina issue but also by Covid-19's impact on the contingent: at least 13 members of the Super Kings unit including two Indian players - one international and one uncapped - have tested positive since landing in the UAE.
This is the first time Srinivasan has commented on the Raina issue, which caught the Super Kings management by surprise. Raina returned to India on Friday from Dubai, less than 10 days after the Super Kings had landed in the UAE for the IPL.
On Friday, the Super Kings CEO Kasi Viswanathan said on the team's Twitter feed that Raina had left for "personal reasons" but did not elaborate on what they were. It is understood that a personal tragedy, as well as concerns over the team's biosecure bubble in the UAE, led Raina to his decision.
"The season has not begun yet and Raina will certainly realise what he is missing and certainly all the money he is going to lose," Srinivasan said, speaking to the Outlook magazine.
On Monday*, Srinivasan told the Times of India that Raina's contribution to the CSK franchise "has been phenomenal through the years". He also said it was "important to understand what Suresh is going through right now and give him space."
"The franchise will always stand by him and he has our complete support in these times of distress," Srinivasan is quoted as saying.
ESPNcricinfo reached out to Srinivasan, Viswanathan and Raina for clarifications, but they are yet to respond.
Raina has been part of the Super Kings set-up since the inception of the IPL in 2008, and is the franchise's highest run-getter and a key figure in the team reaching reaching multiple finals and winning the title twice. In 2018, Super Kings retained three players before assembling the rest of the squad at the layer auction. Dhoni was the first player retained at INR 15 crore, Raina was the second at INR 11 crore and Ravindra Jadeja the third at INR 7 crore.
Srinivisan also said he had spoken to Dhoni, who reportedly assured him that things would be under control. "I spoke to MS and he has assured me that even if the numbers go up, there was nothing to worry," Srinivasan said. "He spoke to the players through a Zoom call and asked them to remain safe. You really don't know who is a passive carrier
"I have got a solid captain. Dhoni is simply unfazed by anything. That is giving everyone in the team a lot of confidence."
*This story was updated at 1.05 pm GMT on August 31, 2020 to include N Srinivasan's comments to Times of India.