South Africa vs India T20Is: Virat Kohli sacrifices and Suresh Raina gains
India brought the curtains down on a highly successful South Africa tour by clinching the T20 series 2-1. It was a dream tour for Indian skipper Virat Kohli who scored 871 runs at an average of 79.18 across all formats, including four hundreds and two fifties. The series added one more feather in Kohli's cap both as a batsman and a leader.
It was his 153 in the second Test at Centurion which set the tone for the remainder of the tour. Despite losing that match, the Indian team fought back brilliantly to win the third Test at Johannesburg.
Riding on the confidence of the Test win, India went ahead ruthlessly in the ODIs. For the first time ever, India won a bilateral ODI series (5-1) on South African soil.
This was followed by the T20I series. The big news coming in was the inclusion of Suresh Raina in the 16-man squad.
The Uttar Pradesh left-hander had played his last match against England at Bengaluru in February 2017. He earned his call-up after clearing the Yo-Yo test which he had failed to clear on a few occasions. Nowadays, the Indian team gives paramount importance to fitness.
He also had a good Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy wherein he scored 314 runs in 9 innings at an average of 39.25 and a strike rate of 146.04, including one hundred and two fifties.
India won the toss and elected to bat first in the first T20I at Johannesburg, and Raina was included in the playing XI. Although India started the innings aggressively, they lost Rohit Sharma early. Everyone was expecting Virat Kohli to walk in at the No. 3 position, but Raina came in instead. It was a wonderful gesture from the Indian captain.
Even the ardent Raina fans were surprised by this move. They wanted to see their hero at No. 3 but didn't expect this to happen considering Kohli's phenomenal record at that spot and the rich vein of form he was in.
Kohli could have come out to bat at No. 3 but he gave Raina a chance to maximize his comeback. Raina's confidence was boosted by this move.
Raina played his natural game and made full use of the power play. He scored a quick 15 runs off 7 balls to maintain India's flying start. He had a pretty good series with the bat overall, scoring 88 runs in 58 balls, including a match-winning 43 off 27 balls in the decider.
This performance will surely lift Raina's confidence and he will be eyeing a good show in the upcoming Nidahas T20I tri-series against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Kohli has sacrificed his No. 3 spot in the past too. He moved to No. 4 in the Carlton Mid One-Day International Tri-Series featuring Australia and England in 2015, in order to accommodate Ajinkya Rahane in the team.
When India toured Zimbabwe for a five-match series in 2013, Kohli didn't bat in the last two games. In the fourth match, he sent Raina in at No. 3. Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja and Dinesh Karthik batted up the order in the fifth and final ODI.
All these incidents indicate that Kohli is a complete team man. He is a captain who backs his players and instils confidence in them. India is blessed to have a batsman like him and more importantly, a leader who puts his team ahead of individual milestones.