Ricky Ponting should give up the Australia captaincy and concentrate on his batting, Kepler Wessels, the former South Africa captain, said yesterday.
Ponting last week became the first Australia captain to lose three Ashes series, leading to calls for him to quit or be sacked.
"Ricky Ponting should be replaced as captain. If he can focus on his batting, then relinquishing the captaincy might be the best thing for him," Wessels, who also played 24 Tests for Australia, told Reuters. "No longer being captain won't necessarily mean he will lose his place in the side, there aren't really any players queueing up to take his place."
Australia's decline, losing to England at home for the first time since 1986/87 with three of the defeats coming by margins of an innings, followed a lengthy period at the summit of world cricket.
"It's looking a bit like the West Indies situation where they dominated for a long time but did not plan for when the better players go out," Wessels said.
"It's a bit similar with Australia because they've just assumed the good times would continue. Sometimes, when you're at your best, it's when you're most vulnerable," South Africa's first Test captain after their return from isolation said.
Wessels said Australia were not helped by the poor form of Ponting's heir apparent, Michael Clarke.
"He [Clarke] should perhaps go for a bit as captain and see if he can recover his form. If not, then Australia will have a serious problem," Wessels said.
However, Allan Donald, the former South Africa fast bowler, offered the Australians hope.
"We saw the same thing in 1986/87 when England went to Australia and comfortably won the Ashes and the limited-overs series," he said. "But they won the World Cup in 1987 and were resurgent in the 90s and became the powerhouses of the game."