Raina a ‘fearless’ cricketer: Coach Shastri

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NEW DELHI, March 3 (PTI): India batsman Suresh Raina made a comeback to the Indian side after one year and justified his selection for the T20 International series against South Africa in style. Raina, who was promoted at No. 3, scored a brilliant 43 off 27 balls and claimed one wicket to help India beat South Africa in the third and final T20I and win the series 2-1. For his match-winning knock, the southpaw was also adjudged the player of the match. Hailing Raina’s performance, India cricket team head coach Ravi Shastri called the 31-year-old a ‘fearless’ cricketer.

“He’s vastly experienced and he showed what experience can do. What I liked the best was he was fearless,” Shastri told reporters here.

“What I liked was the intent because normally when you come back into a side after a long period of time you can be playing for your place. And that can put added pressure on you. But he went out there as if he was never out of the side and batted in that fashion. It was very good to see,” Shastri said.

In three T20Is, Raina scored 89 runs at a strike rate of 153.44. He scored 12 boundaries and two sixes in his comeback series.

Due to his impressive show against the Proteas, Raina has been included in the 15-member squad for the T20I Tri-Series in Sri Lanka, starting March 6.

Before this, the 31-year-old last played for India in a T20l match against England on February 1, 2017. He had made an impressive 63 off 45 balls but did not feature in subsequent T20I series against Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Australia.

“I always play for the team and if we are winning trophies, individual performances will look after themselves. Whatever opportunity I get I look to play my natural game. I enjoy the team support and it helps improve my game,” Raina said.

On a comeback trail in T20 Internationals, Raina had said he wanted to use the opportunity to regain his place in ODIs ahead of the 2019 World Cup.

Raina said, “It is important to win a trophy first and important to go out there as a team mindset. If you see the top order, they are all batting well. When you come to the middle order, MS (Dhoni) is there and Manish (Pandey) is also doing a good job.

“So we will see where I can fit in. There are a lot of matches coming up now. Winning games is more important than being which format I am playing or not. Every Indian game is very important for me right now.”

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