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T Natarajan in isolation after testing positive for Covid-19

Sunrisers Hyderabad's Tamil Nadu boys: T Natarajan and Vijay Shankar take a jog ahead of the match BCCI/IPL

Sunrisers Hyderabad left-arm seamer T Natarajan has tested positive for Covid-19 during scheduled RT-PCR test in Dubai. He has isolated himself from the rest of the squad, while six other members of the franchise, identified as his close contacts, are also in isolation. As per an official IPL release, Natarajan is asymptomatic.

The match on Wednesday evening etween Sunrisers and Delhi Capitals in Dubai, however, is set to go ahead.

Two of the six isolated members are players: allrounder Vijay Shankar and net bowler G Periyaswamy. The others are members of the support staff: Vijay Kumar (team manager), Shyam Sundar J (physiotherapist), Anjana Vannan (doctor) and Tushar Khedkar (logistics manager).

Both Natarajan and Vijay Shankar were, incidentally, part of the Sunrisers' training session in Dubai on Tuesday. The entire contingent, including the close contacts, have since tested negative after undergoing RT-PCR tests at 5am local time.

ESPNcricinfo has learnt that most of the Sunrisers members, including Vijay Shankar and Periyaswamy, had travelled to the UAE from Mumbai on September 1. Natarajan had travelled separately, in a commercial flight from Bengaluru on September 9, and linked up with the squad subsequently.

All participants in the IPL had to quarantine for six days upon arriving in the UAE, and undergo testing every two days in the first week, and every fifth day from the second week.

According to the guidelines in place for the IPL, anyone testing positive for Covid-19 must isolate for a minimum of ten days. They can then rejoin the bubble after clearing two tests, on days nine and ten.

While the IPL's standard operating protocols do not make it mandatory for players, and others, to be vaccinated, Natarajan had been vaccinated twice, based on the photographs he put out on his social-media handles recently.

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This is the second time during the course of the two-part IPL 2021 that a Sunrisers player has tested positive for Covid-19. In May, wicketkeeper-batter Wriddhiman Saha had to isolate for two weeks in Delhi, too, after returning a positive test.

Saha's case highlighted the vulnerability of the IPL bubbles, seeing that members of the public were seen moving around in the vicinity of the teams' dressing rooms at one of the grounds where the Sunrisers had been training.

The latest development is bound to draw attention, even globally, as it came exactly 12 days after the fifth Test of India's tour of England in Manchester was called off. The extreme step was taken after India's players expressed strong reservations against taking the field following their assistant physiotherapist, Yogesh Parmar, testing positive for Covid-19 two days before the scheduled start of the match.

The added cause of concern could be that the IPL will be followed by the T20 World Cup, in the same part of the world, from October 17. In May this year, the IPL - played in India at the time - had to be postponed after a Covid-19 outbreak in multiple team biobubbles. That forced the second part of the tournament to be hosted in the UAE, where the entire 2020 edition of the tournament had also been played. The World Cup, too, was earlier scheduled to be played in India, but was shifted out to the UAE (and Oman) because of the Covid-19 situation in India.

As for Natarajan, it is yet another setback. He was on a comeback trail after undergoing surgery on his knee, which put him out of action after just two IPL games earlier this year. He had hurt his knee during India's tour of Australia at the turn of the year, and subsequently missed games at home against England too.