Harbhajan Singh opts out of IPL 2020 citing personal reasons
He is the second high-profile CSK player to skip the tournament after Suresh Raina
Harbhajan Singh has become the second Chennai Super Kings player to pull out of the 2020 IPL. The senior offspinner has informed the franchise that he would not be travelling to the UAE, where the IPL will be played from September 19, due to "personal reasons". Singh, 40, and Suresh Raina are the two big Indian names to not feature in this IPL for the Super Kings, who will have their first training session on Friday after an extended quarantine.
In a tweet, Singh specified why he was pulling out and said the franchise had been "extremely supportive".
Singh was even absent from the Super Kings' six-day conditioning camp in mid-August in Chennai, which was organised for their Indian players, and did not travel with the team to Dubai on August 21, with word that he would join them later on September 1. On Friday, the Super Kings' chief executive Kasi Viswanathan told ESPNcricinfo that Singh was yet to join the squad, after having said earlier in the week that the offspinner was "expected" in the first week of September.
Viswanathan also said earlier this week that despite the 13 positive Covid-19 cases in their contingent, the Super Kings were ready to play the tournament opener on September 19 if the schedule, which is yet to be announced, required them to.
The loss of two first-team players is bound to increase the burden on MS Dhoni, the Super Kings captain. More than Raina, Dhoni's bigger challenge would be to find a capable replacement for Singh, one of the most experienced and successful bowlers in the IPL. With 150 scalps, Singh is joint-third on the list of highest wicket-takers in the IPL.
After the Mumbai Indians decided to relieve him, the Super Kings picked Singh in the 2018 auction. He was part of the side when the Super Kings won the title in 2018 and also played a role in the team reaching the final in 2019.
Singh's biggest asset has been his economy: he has gone for less than 7.5 in a season eight times, the most for any bowler. For Dhoni, Singh was a weapon to use not just in the powerplay but the middle overs as well, where he could both defend and attack.
The Super Kings have Ravindra Jadeja, Piyush Chawla, Karn Sharma, Imran Tahir, R Sai Kishore and Mitchell Santner as other spinners, but Singh's absence means Kedar Jadhav's part-time bowling is the only offspin option they are left with.
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo