Raina makes a surprise comeback to the T20I Squad against South Africa


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India announced their team on the weekend for the Twenty20 International (T20I) series for their upcoming series against South Africa. Virat Kohli’s men play a three-match ODI series against the Proteas starting February 18. The BCCI selected a 16-member squad and there were not many surprises in store given India’s recent achievements.
The only striking feature was the return of veteran Suresh Raina, who makes a comeback after featuring last against England at Bengaluru in February 2017 and did not figure in the next 10 T20Is for the country. Raina, who was retained by Chennai Super Kings (CSK) for IPL-11, scored 314 runs in nine innings in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament recently. It also included a 49-ball century against Bengal.

Just like the ODI squad, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja were not selected once again with the focus lying on the young wrist spin duo of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav.
Meanwhile, Indian Premier League’s ‘Million Dollar Man’ Jaidev Unadkat made the cut alongside pacers Shardul Thakur, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah.
Here is an analysis of the squad for the T20I series addressing the key aspects.
Strengths: The return of Suresh Raina is a big boost after being dropped earlier for the last set of games against the likes of Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. Raina’s form in the domestic T20s was a stepping stone for his return as he adds vitality in the middle order with bags of experience.

              Matches                Runs                  Best             Strike Rate
                  65                1307                   101                  132.96

The opening combination of KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma could provide a spark. Also Shikhar Dhawan is there in the side as the alternative option atop. Rohit has been in tremendous form in the format and will hope to tick the right boxes and so will Rahul. Virat Kohli at No. 3 is India’s best bet to get a solid platform.
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The middle order looks interesting too with Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the line-up. Dhoni was promoted in the T20I series versus Sri Lanka in 2017 and Kohli could be eager to continue Rohit’s decision and send the veteran player at No. 4. With Raina, Manish Pandey and Hardik Pandya there too, India will be looking towards the trio to provide the finishing touch.
The pace attack also has the required experience in Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah.
Dhawan hasn’t been in the best of touch in T20Is and will hope to play well in the ODIs to get his confidence back. The southpaw was dropped in favour of Rahul against the Lankans and an injury to either Rohit or the latter could be a testing time for Dhawan in the middle.
The lack of experience for Unadkat and Thakur in overseas conditions will be a testing factor. With no Umesh Yadav in the reckoning, it will be interesting to see how the duo provide back-up to Bumrah and Bhuvi.
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India have gone with just four full pacers and Shardul Thakur’s presence puts up a question mark just like it is in the ODIs. He is still yet to play for India in T20Is and his recent form for Mumbai in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy was good but in international cricket there lies a big question mark.
Meanwhile, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav have impressed massively in the sub-continent, but they lack experience in difficult conditions for spinners.
Opportunities await for key players: There are some big chances for some of the members to show if they can handle overseas situations well. That’s where the likes of Chahal and Kuldeep comes into play especially after enjoying tremendous success at home. They could go on to show that India can play overseas without Ashwin and Jadeja with the ICC T20I World Cup next year.
Dinesh Karthik too is in the side and has experience of playing overseas earlier. Therefore there will be a big fight for a slot in middle order with Manish Pandey. All eyes will be on Unadkat though as he will be presented with the chance to show why the Rajasthan Royals broke the bank in landing him in the IPL.
Unadkat will be the third pacer and in his 4 T20I performances, he has done an able job.

              Matches                Wickets                  Best             Economy
                  4                     4                   2/15                  6.69


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