Friday, May 31, 2024

‘Covid fear makes Suresh Raina return home from UAE’


MUMBAI, August 29: The overbearing trauma of having to stay away from his family for close to three months in the middle of a pandemic and inside a heavily protected bio-secure bubble where cases of Covid-19 began popping up over the last couple of days, made Suresh Raina decide to take a ‘red-eye’ flight on Saturday morning from Dubai to New Delhi.
The 33-year-old, who retired from international cricket earlier this month, had been in Chennai before CSK’s departure to the UAE, and was practicing along with the rest of the team in a bio-secure bubble.
Everything seemed fine within the camp as the team left for UAE on August 21 and checked-in at the hotel in Dubai to undergo a 6 day quarantine period as per the BCCI protocol.
However, as cases of Covid began to rise within the camp in the last three days and two cricketers – Deepak Chahar and Rituraj Gaikwad – tested positive along with 10 others (non-players), Raina began to “extensively worry about the situation” and remained “highly apprehensive” about staying back in the UAE.
“On Friday night, in fact, there was a huge ruckus. He tried calling all his teammates, coach (Stephen Fleming), skipper (MS Dhoni) again and again to share his concerns. MS, in fact, also tried explaining things to him but nothing worked. He was badly psyched up and worried. Eventually, everybody else realised there was no point holding him (back) from travelling back because he was totally gripped by fear,” those in the know told TOI.
Sources said it became a highly engrossing and volatile conversation when Raina started sharing his thoughts on how unsafe he had begun to feel inside the bubble. “He just couldn’t take it anymore and refused to be calmed down,” sources say.
CSK issued a general statement from their CEO Kasi Viswanathan, announcing Raina’s exit from the team and offering complete support to the cricketer and his family during this time.
His decision to leave, nevertheless, brings two important factors into immediate focus. A) BCCI-IPL will now have to pay a lot more attention to how the individuals in UAE have been coping mentally, considering Raina’s decision to leave is a result of panic and fear; B) Franchises will have to pay more attention to the players and their personal, mental health at all times.
“CSK did an excellent job in not trying to hold him back. They tried talking to him for some time but eventually realised the best thing would be to let Suresh leave. Gripped by that kind of fear, he wouldn’t be at peace. It was better for him to be with his family,” those in the know added.
It is unlikely now that Raina will head back to the UAE and his well-wishers in the franchise say “health — mental or physical — is far more important”. CSK will now look to replace their most prolific run-getter as the season draws closer to a start. (TNN)