Chennai Super Kings’ Harbhajan Singh has withdrawn from participating in this year’s Indian Premier League citing personal reasons. He is the second CSK player to pull out from the 2020 IPL after Suresh Raina, who also cited “personal reasons” for his decision to withdraw from the event.

Harbhajan conveyed his decision to not play in the IPL to the franchise on Friday.

The veteran off-spinner had not travelled along with the rest of the CSK squad to the United Arab Emirates, where the 13th edition of the IPL is being staged. Raina, who was in the UAE with his team, returned to India after some of his family members were attacked in Punjab in an attempted robbery. His uncle and cousin passed away from their injuries.

All Chennai Super Kings players, except two, have tested negative for COVID-19, and are likely to start their training on Friday. Last week, 13 members belonging to the franchise had tested positive for the virus. The infected players and staff members will undergo another round of tests following a 14-day quarantine period.

All IPL franchises, except Chennai Super Kings, are said to have started their training for the tournament. However, CSK did have a training camp in Chennai before leaving for the UAE

The inaugural match between CSK and defending champions Mumbai Indians is scheduled to be played on September 19. The IPL matches will be held across Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.

Senior off-spinner Harbhajan Singh on Friday became the second high-profile name to pull out of this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL) owing to “personal reasons”, saying he has informed the Chennai Super Kings team management about his decision.

The 40-year-old, who has been part of CSK for the past two seasons is currently in Jalandhar, Punjab, with his family and requested privacy. The IPL starts on September 19 in the UAE after being moved out of India due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I have informed the CSK management about my decision to pull out of this year’s IPL. I have decided to take a break due to personal reasons in these difficult times. I expect that everyone would respect my need for privacy,” Harbhajan, who was bought by the franchise for Rs 2 crore this season, told PTI on Friday.

Harbhajan said that he was indebted to the CSK management for understanding his priorities.

“When I told the CSK management about my decision, they were very supportive and I can’t thank them enough for that,” Harbhajan said.

Harbhajan is one of the most successful bowlers in the history of IPL with 150 wickets and is only third behind Lasith Malinga (170) and Amit Mishra (157).

At this point, he said it was important for him to devote time to his young family, comprising wife Geeta and four-year-old daughter Hinaya.

“I would only say that there are times when family takes precedence over sport. My young family is my focus of attention now. But yes my heart will be in the UAE with my team.

 “I am sure that Chennai Super Kings will put up yet another fabulous performance,” said India’s third highest wicket-taker in Test cricket.

Harbhajan didn’t attend the side’s pre-departure camp in Chennai and was to join his teammates on the day of their flight to Dubai.

He had apprehensions about participation in this edition and was asked by the CSK management to take his time before coming to a decision.

A source close to Harbhajan said that it would be “absurd” to attribute the decision to 13 COVID-19 cases in CSK camp, including pacer Deepak Chahar and batsman Ruturaj Gaikwad.

“It wasn’t about the COVID cases in the Chennai camp. But if you have a wife and toddler staying in India for three months, your mind will be diverted and you can’t fully focus on the game. Then it doesn’t matter whether you get 2 crore or 20 crore. Money is last on your mind,” a friend of the player told PTI on conditions of anonymity.

CSK now has three front-line spinners—leg-spinner Imran Tahir, left-armer Mitchell Santner and seasoned leg-break bowler Piyush Chawla.