Chennai Super Kings' Suresh Raina will miss the entire IPL for "personal reasons", it emerged on Saturday morning. He has since returned to India from the UAE.
"Suresh Raina has returned to India for personal reasons and will be unavailable for the remainder of the IPL season. Chennai Super Kings offers complete support to Suresh and his family during this time," team CEO Kasi Viswanathan said in a tweet from the Super Kings handle.
Raina's return to India came as another setback to the Super Kings camp, after least ten of their number - including an India player - tested positive for Covid-19 after a test on Thursday. It is understood there were two players among those who tested positive, the others being net bowlers and support staff members. As a result, they have postponed the start of their training to next month while almost all the other teams have already hit the nets in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Raina has been one of the most important players for the Super Kings over the years, having played all but one of their 165 IPL matches since the start of the competition in 2008. The only game he missed was against Kings XI Punjab in 2018 because of a calf injury, after playing 158 consecutive matches for the team. He is also the second-highest scorer in IPL history with 5368 runs, only behind Virat Kohli's tally of 5412. He turned out for Gujarat Lions in 2016 and 2017 when the Super Kings were suspended for two years following the spot-fixing controversy of 2013.
Raina retired from international cricket earlier this month, announcing his decision on the same evening as MS Dhoni's announcement to retire, after the two had landed in Chennai for a preparatory camp the Super Kings had organised before flying out to Dubai. The camp was for India players only and included Dhoni, Raina, Kedar Jadhav, Deepak Chahar, Shardul Thakur, M Vijay and Piyush Chawla, as well as bowling coach L Balaji. Ravindra Jadeja and Harbhajan Singh missed the camp and were to join the squad just before flying out to the UAE on August 21.
The Super Kings were the only team to hold a proper camp while Kings XI Punjab and Mumbai Indians also organised some training sessions for the local players in Bengaluru and Mumbai respectively. Since the Super Kings have some of the oldest players in the IPL, they wanted to give their Indian recruits some training as they had all been at home in lockdown since March.
That camp has also come in sharp focus now because it was held at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chepauk, and its neighbourhood, especially Triplicane, is heavily congested and severely affected by Covid-19. There has been no direct correlation established between the camp and the positive tests, though.
The IPL is yet to announce a schedule with only three weeks to go for the opener on September 19, which was expected to be played between the Super Kings and Mumbai Indians.
Vishal Dikshit is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo