Ricky Ponting arrived back in Australia on Wednesday under fire from a nation still coming to terms with losing the Ashes.
While England's players were being feted like rock stars in London, the Australian captain cut a lonely figure as he trudged past a handful of loyal supporters at Sydney International Airport.
His mood did not improve when he fronted a packed media conference moments later, facing a barrage of questions about his team's performance and his own future as skipper.
"Everyone's disappointed, there's no doubt about that," Ponting said.
"Unfortunately we didn't produce our best cricket when we had to and that's an unusual thing for this team.
"Usually this team lifts when the big occasions are there but we just didn't do it this time.
"But take nothing away from England...they outplayed us in the Tests so they thoroughly deserve to come away with the Ashes."
The recriminations were already under way in Australia before Ponting and his team mates had landed, with former players and media calling for heads to roll.
Most of the criticism was aimed at the middle-order batsmen and support bowlers but no one was spared, least of all Ponting.
His leadership and tactics were heavily criticised throughout the series, particularly his decision to field first at Birmingham, and former Test bowler Dennis Lillee has demanded his replacement with Shane Warne.
"I don't have too many regrets, looking back on the series," Ponting said.
"Hopefully I will keep the job. I absolutely love every opportunity I have to captain Australia. It's one of the best jobs in world sport."
Ponting also defended his players, urging the selectors not to make radical changes.
"It's a 2-1 loss. It's not as if we've been completely wiped off the planet and it's not as if we have to make wholesale changes," he said.
"We've been below our best and we've got some work to do before the next time we play them.
"But I don't see any changes at all before our next Test match."
Ponting's show of faith in his players was reciprocated as they rallied around their leader.
Paceman Glenn McGrath said he agreed with Lillee that Warne would make a good captain but said Ponting still had his backing.
"Shane has a good cricket brain, there's no doubt about that. He would definitely do a very good job but at the moment Ricky's got my full support," McGrath said.
Wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist told reporters in Perth: "I'd be really disappointed if this turns into some sort of public slanging match over who should be or shouldn't be leading the team.
"Ricky has been an outstanding captain up to this point and will continue to be so, he has the whole team's backing, I'm certain of that."