Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo
An India player is among at least ten members of the Chennai Super Kings contingent who have tested positive for Covid-19 in Dubai. ESPNcricinfo understands there is only one player among those who tested positive, with the rest of them comprising support staff members and a few net bowlers. One of those found positive is the wife of a senior Super Kings official, though the official himself has tested negative.
The infected persons are understood to have been moved to a different hotel from the team hotel, and are being monitored by medical personnel behind closed doors.
As a result of this development, Super Kings have been forced to postpone the start of their training in Dubai to September 1. According to the IPL's Standing Operating Procedures (SOPs), all those who tested positive will now need to undergo at least two weeks of further quarantine and clear two more tests before they can rejoin the group.
ESPNcricinfo understands the positive test results are from the final round of testing in the UAE, which is part of IPL's Covid-19 protocols comprising three tests that are mandatory for every person who is part of the tournament. As per the protocol, every person would get tested at the airport upon landing in the UAE, followed by two tests at the hotel on days 3 and 6. The protocol also makes it mandatory for everyone to undergo a six-day quarantine after landing, when they are not supposed to even mingle with team members or colleagues. Only once the squad members clear all the mandatory tests can teams start their training.
As per the original schedule, Super Kings would have started their training on Friday. However, their preparations are now in disarray. So far neither the franchise nor the IPL has made any public comment.
The IPL is to start on September 19, but the schedule is yet to be finalised. The development is bound to put the IPL on alert simply because Super Kings, who finished runners-up in 2019, are expected to play defending champions Mumbai Indians in the tournament opener.
Super Kings landed in Dubai on August 21 after part of their Indian contingent underwent a six-day conditioning camp in Chennai. That group included most of the senior Indian players in the squad including captain MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Deepak Chahar and Piyush Chawla.
What happens now?
According to tournament's SOPs, those who test positive have to be "immediately isolated from rest of the squad", and it is understood this has been done with the infected persons having been moved out of the team hotel. The SOPs also say "contact tracing" should "commence immediately".
If the person is "asymptomatic or has mild symptoms", then he/she would need to be isolated outside the biosecure bubble for two weeks from the "first day of symptoms or a positive PCR test report whichever is later".
The individual cannot also train during the 14-day isolation period and is advised complete rest. If the symptoms worsen then he/she would be shifted to a tournament-accredited hospital.
"After the 2 weeks isolation, the individual must return 2 negative PCR test reports done 24 hours apart before being permitted to re-enter the BioSecure Environment. After recovery, players must undergo a cardiac screening before resuming any team activities," is what the IPL said while distributing the SOPs to franchise recently.
Had "reservations" about Chennai camp - Super Kings CEO
Incidentally, Super Kings CEO Kasi Viswanathan revealed he was skeptical about organising the camp in Chennai and that it was Dhoni who convinced him that the camp was necessary.
"When we announced that the tournament [IPL] is going to happen, I had reservations about conducting the camp here because of the bio-bubble which we will have to observe," Viswanathan said in a Super Kings video published on YouTube on August 26. "In fact, I even sent a message to him whether it will be worthwhile having a camp of five days before we leave for Dubai. But captain [Dhoni] was crystal clear in his thoughts."
Dhoni reasoned that the Chennai experience would also help players understand the basics of what being in a bubble meant. "He said: 'No, Sir, we have not played for nearly 4-5 months. All of us need to get together. We should be in Chennai, in a bio-bubble, so that we get used to that when we land in Dubai. And also will help the boys getting in shape.' This camp, though we had some reservations, has really helped. And I am very happy we were able to host the camp."