Although India continued to dominate South Africa in their own backyard with an opening win in the Twenty20 International series, newspapers around the country on Monday (February 19) discussed a variety of topics, including MS Dhoni’s utility in the team, Virat Kohli’s personal brilliance and South Africa’s puzzling team changes. The hosts were also under fire from one of their own with Graeme Smith ruthlessly taking apart the management and players for their performances over the past two months.

Down Under, the focus was split between Australia’s tri-series final against New Zealand and their Test series against South Africa, due to begin in March. There was also impassioned defence of Auckland’s Eden Park after it came under fire in the world record chase posted by Australia during the tri-series.

MS Dhoni should bat at No. 4 after Virat Kohli, says Virender Sehwag (Hindustan Times)
Sehwag, meanwhile, also warned the Indian cricket team of a possible South African backlash post the humiliation in the ODI series. “Having suffered a defeat in ODIs, South Africa will look to perform better when they take on India in the first T20I,” Sehwag said. Left-arm pacer Jaydev Unadkat, veteran Suresh Raina and KL Rahul have joined the Indian team for the T20I series, which will conclude on February 24.

Kohli can break Tendulkar’s record, Dhoni can still be dangerous: Gundappa Viswanath (Deccan Chronicle)
Impressed, the 69-year-old Viswanath said, “Everyone knows what Kohli is doing, he has been absolutely brilliant. Consistency is amazing and his hunger for runs, aggressiveness, he is at another level and I hope he continues and stays there. “The confidence is showing on his team, it is doing very well, their performance augurs well for Indian team.” Though he preferred to stay away form comparisons, Viswanath said results are in Kohli’s favour when asked if he could become India’s finest captain.

Idea of a specialist ’keeper is gone: Kirmani (The Hindu)
Coming from a ’keeping giant of the past, it was a big statement. “Even K.L. Rahul keeps wickets these days,” quipped Kirmani. He observed, “These days, teams want a batsman who can also ’keep, add another dimension to his game, be an all-rounder. In my time ’keeping took precedence.” Kirmani was not willing to pick the best wicketkeeper in the country. “They are all in the process of becoming better wicket-keepers. It’s hard to say who is the best.”

Despite mild crisis, Sri Lanka can surprise India, says Sanjay Manjrekar (The Times of India)
Ahead of next month’s Nidahas Trophy in Sri Lanka, a T20I tri-series also featuring India and Bangladesh, former India batsman turned television analyst Sanjay Manjrekar has backed the home team to spring a few surprises. “Currently Sri Lanka are going through a mild crisis. It is a team that’s looking like minnows now. That there are currently around 23 teams at the domestic level playing inter-provincial cricket in such a small country is not helping matters either,” wrote Manjrekar, who played 74 ODIs and 37 Tests, in his column for TOI. “I guess one still has to place trust in the fact that it is a country that loves cricket, may be not as passionately or single-mindedly as Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, but cricket is still a very popular sport there. Icons like Sangakkara and Jayawardene and Murali will inspire young kids to take up cricket and excel at it.

Team changes have not made sense for South Africa: Sourav Ganguly (The Indian Express)
“Yes, a team makes changes when it loses but the changes have not made sense for South Africa,” Ganguly wrote. “It will be a completely new set of players and looking at the importance of the series, I find it hard to understand some of the selections. A tour by India is always special to any country and the South Africans have surprised with some ‘non-selection’,” Ganguly wrote in a column for Times of India. Wondering what led to do the exclusion of seamer Kagiso Rabada, the southpaw said, “The exclusion of David Miller in the last ODI itself was surprising, as is the omission of Kasigo Rabada from the T20 squad. JP Duminy will be leading in the T20 format but was not included in the final one-dayer while Tabraiz Shamsi, who bowled well at Port Elizabeth, was replaced by Imran Tahir in the last game.”

Biff lashes Proteas’ skills shortfall (
For those now gravely fearing what might happen when the already-landed Australians tackle South Africa over four Tests from March 1, they might do well to bear in mind for contextual purposes that when that mouth-watering combat begins, the Proteas – assuming all their currently crocked or resting troops are ready – will filter back an array of reassuring names not presently in operational mode for the country’s cause. Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock, Temba Bavuma, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel, Keshav Maharaj … that is just about a whole new team, and thank goodness for that, really. What we are witnessing more immediately is a glimpse at the Proteas’ extended personnel, their supposed “depth” and, in some respects, a taste of the future. And that side of things only looks increasingly sobering, depressing.

Legend Blackwell happy to finish on high (
That she has ended her 14-year Australian career has come as a surprise to many – while Blackwell was squeezed out of the Southern Stars XI for the T20Is against England last November, she played a match-winning hand during the ODI portion of the multi-format Ashes, which Australia ultimately retained. And on Sunday, she scored a run-a-ball 76 for NSW in the WNCL. The 34-year-old had even spoken of playing on until the next 50-over World Cup in 2021 when at last year’s tournament in the UK, but said she now felt the time was right to walk away on top.

‘They can be one of the great Australian teams’ (
Eighteen months after that tour finished with a thrilling victory at Newlands to seal the series and secure the No.1 Test team ranking, all bar Johnson had exited Test cricket following the 2015 Ashes, with the left-armer lasting just two more Tests. But Smith’s group has just two players older than what Clarke was when he started Australia’s last visit to South Africa – 34-year-old Shaun Marsh, who was on that tour in 2014, and wicketkeeper Tim Paine at 33. The core group of Smith (28), David Warner (31), Mitchell Starc (27), Josh Hazlewood (27), Nathan Lyon (30) and Pat Cummins (24) are in the prime of their careers.

Risk of burnout for players: Warner (
Warner is the only Australian to have played all three formats this summer and his preparation for the Qantas Test tour of South Africa will also be truncated by the ongoing T20 series in New Zealand. Having been given a rare two-day break at home with his family in Sydney last week, the stand-in T20 skipper appeared to benefit from the short stint away, snapping his run drought in Australia’s record-breaking win in Auckland on Friday night.

Eden Park produces the best matches and best atmosphere, so don’t change a thing (
If cricket tragics were to list the 10 best home international matches of the past five years, Eden Park would have seven or eight strong contenders. And the tiny straight boundaries, a 45m top edge from stumps to rope, would barely rate a mention. Two tests: England in 2013 and India a year later were crackers that went down to the wire, even contests between bat and ball. The South Africa World Cup semifinal is a clear No 1, and the low-scoring thriller against Australia (yes, bowlers can prosper there too) a few weeks earlier not far behind for tension, drama and atmosphere. New Zealand chased 152, nine down, that sunny Saturday as Kane Williamson raised the roof of the main stand.

Black Caps coach Mike Hesson provides a timely dose of common sense (
Hesson conceded there was a workload issue, but said there was also a “revenue-generation issue” that had to be considered. “In some countries that’s not as big a deal, but for New Zealand Cricket, to get 35,000 at Eden Park or whatever it was the other day, that’s huge for us, and huge for the game, and huge for the promotion of the game. “We certainly get great support for T20 internationals over here.” Bearing that in mind, it was worth considering once again whether international T20 matches are meaningful. It’s a question the cricketing world is yet to produce a definitive answer to, but for Hesson, it’s clear.