JOHANNESBURG Ricky Ponting should give up the Australian captaincy and concentrate on his batting, former South Africa skipper Kepler Wessels said on Tuesday.
Ponting last week became the first Australian 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," Wessels said.
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.
"All along they've planned for Michael Clarke to take over the captaincy, but now he's been having problems too. He 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.
Former South Africa fast bowler Allan Donald offered the Australians some hope, however.
"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.
"Australia as a team looked well-beaten. But they won the World Cup in 1987 and were resurgent in the 90s and became the powerhouses of the game."
Donald said Australia were rebuilding and other teams would be hungry to take advantage at this year's World Cup which starts next month.
"They're looking extremely exposed for the first time in two decades and the rest of the world will be licking their lips and saying we want a piece of them," Donald said.
"But England are a good team, that's the bottom line, and even though one can't really comprehend the massive defeats they've suffered, Australia are still the world champions in one-day cricket."