Suresh Raina has been recalled to India's squad for the three-match T20I series in South Africa. Raina's inclusion was the biggest highlight among a several changes from the squad that faced Sri Lanka at home last December.
Shreyas Iyer was the most notable absentee in the 16-man squad announced on Sunday, while Basil Thampi, Deepak Hooda, Mohammed Siraj and Washington Sundar did not find places either. Allrounder Axar Patel and fast bowler Shardul Thakur filled two of the vacancies. Virat Kohli and Bhuvneshwar Kumar reclaimed their places after foregoing the Sri Lanka series on account of their weddings. Shikhar Dhawan, who had opted out due to personal reasons, was also back in the squad.
Raina last played an international match in February 2017, which was T20I as well. Back then, he smashed 63 to help fashion a series-clinching 75-run win over England in Bengaluru. He fell out of favour thereafter, and endured a middling season with Uttar Pradesh, averaging 11.66 after nine innings in the Ranji Trophy. But he found form in the domestic T20 tournament, making 314 runs at a strike-rate of 146. Those figures include back-to-back innings of 126*, 61 and 56.
Iyer, who made his ODI debut against Sri Lanka, made a bright start with two fifties in three matches. However, he returned just 54 runs in the three T20Is that followed and spent large parts of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy recovering from a hamstring injury. He did hammer an unbeaten 44-ball 79 in his last game though.
The T20Is begin with the first game in Johannesburg on February 18, two days after the teams wrap up a six-match ODI series. India have already conceded the Tests 2-1.
India squad: Virat Kohli (capt) Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni (wk), Dinesh Karthik, Hardik Pandya, Manish Pandey, Axar Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Jaydev Unadkat, Shardul Thakur