FILE PHOTO: India's Harbhajan Singh (R) and Amit Mishra attend a practice session ahead of their first Twenty-20 cricket match against South Africa in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamsala, India, October 1, 2015. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/File Photo

FORMER India Test off-spinner Harbhajan Singh on Friday (4) added to a growing list of top names to pull out of the coronavirus hit the Indian Premier League.

The 40-year-old has also become the second key player to withdraw from three-time champions Chennai Super Kings ahead of the start on September 19 in United Arab Emirates.

“Dear Friends, I will not be playing IPL this year due to personal reasons,” Harbhajan announced on Twitter.

“These are difficult times and I would expect some privacy as I spend time with my family.”

Harbhajan, who had been at the centre of growing speculation as he had not joined the other players in Dubai, said Chennai had been “extremely supportive” and he wished them a “great IPL”.

“Team Chennai Super Kings is supportive of his decision and stands by him and his family during these testing times,” CSK said on Twitter, without naming a replacement.

 

Former Test batsman Suresh Raina, who recently retired from international cricket, went to Dubai with Chennai but flew back last weekend, also for “personal reasons”.

“I have a family with two little kids and elderly parents,” Raina told an Indian news magazine Outlook.

“For me returning to the family was more important.”

Incidentally, at the time of his return, his relatives in Punjab had faced a deadly attack by gang of robbers.

The tournament was moved out of India because of the pandemic. But two Chennai players  Deepak Chahar and Ruturaj Gaikwad — and 11 officials and support staff tested positive for coronavirus, delaying the start of Chennai’s training.

Harbhajan, who has claimed 150 wickets in 160 IPL appearances, was part of the Mumbai Indians squad for 10 years before joining Chennai in 2018.

Other big names have also withdrawn from the tournament in recent days.

England’s Jason Roy of the Delhi Capitals will not go because of injury. Australian international Kane Richardson pulled out of Royal Challengers Bangalore to be at the birth of his first child.

Veteran Sri Lanka paceman Lasith Malinga of the Mumbai Indians team also pulled out of the tournament “to be with his family”.

The IPL has yet to release a fixture list for the league, which runs through to November 10.