Australian press Monday criticised Ricky Ponting for worrying more about his own threatened suspension than his team's chances of levelling the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series against India.
Cricket writers and commentators were stunned by what they saw as his efforts to improve Australia's sluggish over rate rather than going for broke to try and win the vital Nagpur Test.
India lead 1-0 in the series and a draw in the fourth and final Test would enable the hosts to regain the trophy from Australia.
The visitors were 13 without loss at stumps on Sunday chasing an unlikely 382 to win.
Reports said Ponting eased the pressure on India when he pressed part-time slow bowlers Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke into the attack in the final session of the fourth day's play, apparently to make up for a slow over rate.
Under International Cricket Council regulations, a captain can face a ban for his team's slow over-rate.
One writer described it as Ponting's worst day as national captain.
"Ricky Ponting had every reason to hang his head in shame after allowing India to escape the noose in the crunch fourth Test," The Daily Telegraph's Jon Pierik said.
"In his most embarrassing moment in his 48th Test as Test captain in five years in charge, Ponting opted to worry more about improving Australia's sluggish over rate than going for broke to try and snare a must-win match when a result was clearly on the line.
"Ponting -- amazingly -- was more concerned about being suspended for next week's first Test against cricketing backwater New Zealand at the Gabba."
The Australian's Malcolm Conn wrote: "In what must surely be Ricky Ponting's worst day as national captain he may have cost Australia the Border-Gavaskar Trophy by attempting to save himself from suspension."
In the television commentary box at the ground, Allan Border, the former Australian captain whose name adorns the trophy, was incredulous.
"I don't know what to make of all this. They go into the tea break on a high and come out worrying about over rates," Border said on air. "I am glad Ricky can't read my mind right now because he is not going to like it."
The Sydney Morning Herald's cricket columnist Peter Roebuck said it was one of the most baffling displays of captaincy seen in the long and proud history of Australian cricket.
Former Test batsman Mark Waugh, watching the Test from the Fox Sports Sydney studio, said he would probably have stuck with the best bowlers in the situation and accepted the possibility of a ban if it meant winning a game.
Ponting has been one of Australia's most successful captains. He has lost just one series, the 2005 Ashes, although it appears this will be his second series loss.