Chennai Super Kings all-rounder Suresh Raina has pulled out of the Indian Premier League (IPL) citing "personal reasons", the franchise said on Saturday even as it emerged that a second player in the team has tested positive for COVID-19.
The player who has tested positive is a right-handed top-order batsman, who has been a part of India A teams in recent past and is a prolific performer in Ranji Trophy. On Friday, a T20 specialist pacer had tested positive along with 12 members of the CSK contingent in Dubai.
"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," CSK tweeted CEO Kasi Viswanathan's statement.
It is understood that the COVID-19 case load of one franchise (13) has made a lot of players as well as support staff wary about the situation as they remain in bio bubble for next two and half months.
While it is expected that Raina will be issuing a statement, sources close to the franchise said that one of the biggest draws in IPL desperately wanted to be with his young family at the moment.
The 33-year-old had retired from international cricket earlier this month.
CSK's quarantine period in Dubai has already been extended till September 1.
"Suresh's absence will be a big blow for the CSK and also, he is one of the biggest draws in IPL. But in these times, if any player doesn't feel 100 per cent and has some other pressing priorities, any team respects that and CSK is no different," a senior IPL official privy to development in CSK camp told PTI on conditions of anonymity.
While it couldn't be officially confirmed but speculation was rife that a family tragedy coupled by spike in COVID-19 cases in the team might have disturbed the former India left-hander who retired on August 15 alongside his skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Once the first case of a player inside the bubble turning positive emerged, Raina was shaken and had raised his apprehensions.
"He wasn't in a mood to play once the multiple COVID positive cases emerged. He was keen on going back home to his kids," an IPL source privy to development in CSK camp said.
Another theory doing the rounds is that he was disturbed by the murder of his 58-year-old uncle Ashok Kumar in Pathankot during an alleged robbery attempt. Four of his relatives, including his aunt, also sustained injuries allegedly in an attack by robbers, police said on Saturday.
The incident took place at Thariyal village in Punjab's Pathankot district on the night intervening August 19 and 20, the police said.
However, this has been ruled out as a potential cause by multiple sources.
"Obviously, it's a hurtful incident but it happened on August 19 and 20 when he was in Chennai. Let's just put it this way that cricket is the last thing on Suresh's mind right now," the source added.
While it is understood that the tournament is not under threat as of now but one franchise becoming a "COVID-19 hotspot" is slowly becoming an issue for other teams, as well as for the BCCI.
"If there are 13 cases from only one franchise then it is an issue for sure for everyone. The biggest aspect will be whether foreign cricketers will now start being panicky as they are more touchy about these issues," an official said.
"We need to keep a tab on players' mental health," he added.