When some boys who were warming up were asked to form a huddle at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium here, it looked like a regular team bonding exercise for the Chennai Super Kings. Dwayne Bravo, who was cracking a joke at one corner of the ground, rushed towards the huddle.

India Cements owner, N. Srinivasan, who was dressed in a green tee and trousers, was in the middle of the gathering. As the shutterbugs zoomed their lenses towards the huddle, one could see a smiling Srinivasan welcoming Chennai Super Kings’ old warhorses Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja.

After all, it was homecoming for the two!

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While Raina has been with the outfit since the beginning of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2008, Jadeja joined the brigade in 2012. It has been an outing to remember since. And it wasn’t a surprise when the club, returning from a two-year suspension, retained both Raina and Jadeja, along with skipper M. S. Dhoni. After all, over the years, all three have been the core members of the outfit.

CSK’s olden days were revisited when Raina and Jadeja hit the ground. While Raina spent considerable amount of time at the nets, the India international also made it a point to discuss a thing or two with his skipper Dhoni.

Jadeja, on the other hand, was more focused in the bowling department. Aware that he will have to play the key role in the absence of R. Ashwin, the left-arm spinner decided to sweat it out at the nets, testing the batsmen.

Harbhajan absent

However, the other star spinner, Harbhajan Singh, skipped the practice.

Harbhajan, who moved out of Mumbai Indians after a decade-long association, arrived in Chennai late on Thursday and remained busy with promotional shoots for the franchise on Friday. Interestingly, Harbhajan has been given jersey number ‘27’, which incidentally, is the birth-date of his daughter. The spinner even posted a picture of the jersey on his social media accounts. But as the team took the field, Harbhajan was nowhere to be seen.

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Kedar Jadhav and N. Jagadeesan were the other Indian players who were not in the camp on Friday. While most of the foreign recruits will land next week, the CSK support staff — Michael Hussey, Eric Simmons and Lakshmipathy Balaji — have made it a point to ensure that the house is put in order before the tournament gets under way on April 7.

As the players trained under lights, hundred-odd supporters cheered for Dhoni and Raina. Every time Raina would connect the ball, the voices in the stands grew louder.

‘Dhoni Idhayattil , Raina Manadhil ’, they cheered in Tamil, welcoming their ‘sons of the soil’ after a two-year hiatus. For Chennai, Dhoni remains in heart, and Raina in the mind.