Melbourne: For years the Australian cricket public has been warned that when our ageing champs retire, the Test team will falter, if not fall. And so it came to pass that over the past year Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist, Justin Langer and Damien Martyn have left the Test arena.
Yet 12 months on, with Australia no longer dominating as it has for the past decade, the blame is being laid squarely at the feet of captain Ricky Ponting, the Hearald Sun said.
As selectors search frantically to give Ponting a potentially winning combination, the skipper is the one to come under public scrutiny.
Is he accountable for losing the fabulous five? No. Can he muster leadership wizardry to compensate for the loss of such experience (537 Tests between those five)? No.
Can he make his new and raw bowlers emulate matchwinners Warne and McGrath, who between them captured 1271 wickets? No.
But the pivotal question remains: Is Ponting a top-shelf captain? The critics say he is not the Hearald Sun said.
One minute he is branded arrogant because he is celebrating a historic Test win, the next he is criticised for poor body language when the team forfeits a winning position and loses a Test.
He is nailed as selfish for trying to play the game in the right spirit and bowl the appropriate number of overs in a day. He is sneered at as Captain Pout because he refused to make excuses for the first Test loss to South Africa, the Hearald Sun said.
Even Proteas skipper Graeme Smith started giving a lecture on body language to one of the greatest players and most successful captains in cricket history.
So what can Ponting do? Nothing, except answer the criticism with dynamic batting and hope that his team can be competitive, retain its world No.1 ranking and perhaps even placate a pessimistic public by winning, the Hearald Sun said.