New Delhi: Spinmeisters got busy Tuesday to explain Chennai Super Kings (CSK) batsman Suresh Raina’s decision to leave the team base in Dubai and return to India.
While the batsman himself seemed to indicate that his hurried departure had something to do with the brutal murder of an uncle and a cousin in Punjab, the boss of the franchise, N Srinivasan, walked back his remarks to the media that Raina had acted like a prima donna.
The former India batsman and the highest run getter for Chennai Super Kings cited "personal reasons" for his hurried departure from the team base in Dubai over the weekend even as the franchise was engaged in managing the fallout of 13 coronavirus positives being detected in the team camp.
A few days earlier, Raina’s ‘relatives’ were attacked in Punjab by mysterious assailants, which Raina elaborated upon in a series of graphic Twitter comments on Tuesday.
"My uncle was slaughtered to death," and a cousin died in hospital on Monday. Raina said his aunt was still "very, very critical" in hospital.
According to the police, Raina's 58-year-old uncle, Ashok Kumar, and his family were attacked at night while they slept on the terrace of their house.
Raina demanded a tough inquiry. "We at least deserve to know who did this heinous act to them," he said. "Those criminals should not be spared to commit more crimes."
Raina's sudden departure triggered speculation ranging from concern over the coronavirus outbreak in the team, a tiff over the hotel room given to him, and the death of relatives.
After the hotel room story appeared in the media, Chennai Super Kings industrialist owner N. Srinivasan was quoted criticising the player as acting like a prima donna.
However, Srinivasan said his comments were taken out of context. He said Raina’s "contribution to CSK is second to none and it is unfortunate that people are trying to put two and two together to drive a wedge.
“These boys, they're family. They've been family for over a decade now. When I said 'cricketers are like prima donnas', it wasn't in a negative sense, “but as the lead singer in an opera,” he was quoted as saying by the Times of India.
The episode has stoked speculation over the future of the CSK star. The news agency PTI suggested that the detection of 13 COVID-19 cases, including two main squad members Deepak Chahar and Ruturaj Gaikwad, played a role in Raina’s exit from the event, which starts on September 19.
However, the agency said it emerged that the team management was not particularly happy with the 32-year-old's "conduct" during quarantine, something which infuriated CSK owner N Srinivasan.
"In CSK, the norm is that the coach, captain and manager get suites. However, Raina also gets a suite. It's just that his room didn't have a balcony," an IPL source told PTI.
"It was an issue but I don't think big enough to warrant a comeback (to India). There could be something more than just the scare of rising COVID-caseload in the Chennai team," the source added, alluding to a speculated breach of the bio-bubble by Raina.
For now as per the official statement issued by CSK, Suresh Raina is not in the team. “There are certain things that have not gone down too well with the top people," the source said.
"It looks highly improbable that someone who has retired and likely won't play any cricket will come back. Maybe, he will be back in auction and someone else might pick him."
CSK is punting heavily on Ruturaj, expecting that he will come good once he completes the quarantine and rejoins the training session after two negative tests.
"CSK has not yet asked for an official replacement for Raina...they are undecided," the IPL source added.
On the speculated bio-bubble breach, the source said an apology from Raina will have little impact given that the team is looking ahead.
"I don't know about the apology part but CSK will now be eyeing to prepare Ruturaj looking at the future and Dhoni and (manager Stephen) Fleming will rejig their strategy accordingly," the source added.
Raina is CSK's highest run-getter with 4527 runs from 164 IPL games. The Uttar Pradesh left-hander is also the second highest scorer in IPL history with 5368 runs, second only to Indian skipper Virat Kohli's 5412 runs.