India star spinner Ravichandran Ashwin withdrew from the Indian Premier League on Sunday to support his family during the COVID-19 pandemic, dealing a significant blow to the glitzy tournament which is taking place despite the country battling rising death rates.
Ashwin, 34, a key Test and ODI player, said he would be taking a break from playing in the lucrative T20 franchise tournament with the Delhi Capitals team.
"My family and extended family are putting up a fight against #COVID19 and I want to support them during these tough times," Ashwin tweeted.
"I expect to return to play if things go in the right direction. Thank you @DelhiCapitals."
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Ashwin's decision is a major blow for the money-spinning event which is being held behind closed doors and runs until May 30.
On Sunday, a leading Indian newspaper group suspended coverage of the IPL, calling the tournament "commercialism gone crass" and "incongruous" as the record-breaking pandemic surge grips the country.
Express Publications said in a front-page editorial of its flagship English-language daily, the New Indian Express, that the paper was halting reporting on the Twenty20 event until a "semblance of normalcy is restored".
Delhi said they supported the decision taken by Ashwin.
"Extending our full support to you in these difficult times, @ashwinravi99 Sending you and your family all the strength and prayers from all of us at Delhi Capitals," the team tweeted.
Ashwin has played 77 Tests in a 10-year international career as well as 111 ODIs and 46 T20 Internationals.
He has 409 Test wickets, one of just 16 bowlers in history to break the 400-mark.
Ashwin's Twitter account has over 10 million followers.
His profile page contains the plea: "Stay home stay safe! Take your vaccine."