Ponting desperate to prove critics wrong
The knives are out, and directed at one man. Ricky Ponting.
With the fans and former cricketers gunning for his head after the Ashes loss, Australia's captain had an ideal opportunity to redeem himself by winning the World Cup.
But, like romantic tales that look like finishing on a lovely note but end up the other way, Ponting is left licking his wounds.
When Australia's innings, in the second quarter-final of the World Cup, was over, surely his confidence must have been sky high; after all, his brilliant century helped the defending champions post a competitive total. And, with pacers Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson in good form, he had every reason to be optimistic; there was hope of a fourth World crown.
But, as the Indians settled down after a good start from their openers Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar, that hope soon gave way to despair.
The fact that he went in for an umpire review quickly, when the players around the batsman were not so sure about a caught behind off Virender Sehwag, says a thing or two about how desperate he was to prove his critics wrong.
Image: Ricky Ponting
Photographs: Getty Images
India end Australia's 12-year reign
Perhaps, for the first time he looked out of sorts on the field, not attacking when he should have. Never before had one seen an Aussie shoulder droop so early. And when the captain begins to wither, it reflects on the team as well.
The defeat to India in Ahmedabad not only put an end to Australia's near-monopoly in the World Cup, but also signaled it was time for Ponting's exit from the grand stage.
He was part of three World Cup-winning teams, two of which he led with distinction. Indeed, if Australia reigned 11 years and 11 months it was mainly because of his leadership and exploits with the bat.
Image: Yuvraj Singh celebrates after beating Australia
Ponting going through a bad phase
So where does Ponting go from here?
Despite his Ashes series defeat to England earlier this year, the end of Australia's 12-year run as World Cup champions and the clamour from fans Down Under for his ouster as skipper, he insists he is still good to lead Australia on next month's tour of Bangladesh.
While many will ask why should he continue to lead, sure, quite a few will ask why not?
After all, if Australia is going through a bad phase, it is not just because of poor captaincy. Poor batting and the lack of a genuine spinner is to blame.
The inability to find adequate replacements for the likes of Justin Langer, Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne is, in the main, the reason for the team's poor showing in recent months.
Image: Ricky Ponting
Haddin looks captaincy material
So, the million dollar question is: who can replace Ponting at the helm?
Michael Clarke is being touted as the ideal man to take over the reigns from Ponting. But, with the youngster himself woefully out of form, will he be able to motivate the team?
When was the last time 'Pup' played a crucial innings for Australia? A low on confidence captain would be the last thing an Aussie side would want.
Bradd Haddin is another player who fits for the role of captain. He has had the experience of captaining NSW. Now that he has secured a place for himself in the team, he can put his hand up to lead the side.
As wicketkeeper he has had a lot of involvement with the bowlers. Whether he wants to take up the dual role of keeper and captain is worth considering. India's MS Dhoni has shown how both jobs can be handled.
Then, there's Shane Watson too. He can slip into the captaincy nicely. He is aggressive, leads from the front and sets a benchmark for those in the team. More significantly, he is a level-headed player, more of a proactive nature.
Image: Bradd Haddin