Illingworth, a former chair-man of selectors who also led England to Ashes success as captain in 1970, suggested that too much was being spent on the team for too little reward.
Illingworth said: "It was awful - I can't say any more than that. I am glad I am out of it. I think we got it wrong with the side we put out by playing four bowlers in 40-50 degree heat. But you can pull apart every department in the team.
"For me, what has to be looked at is the money spent on the team. We have more coaches, managers, physios and even more hangers-on than ever, but the results are just as bad. What depresses me most is not the fact that England lose in Australia, but that they are lying down and dying. We are getting blown away."
Illingworth is at least encouraged that the first-class counties have grasped the nettle of two divisions in the championship for 2000 but fears the innovation is being established 24 years too late.
"The problem goes right through the game. At league level, standards are not as good as they were 20 years ago and nowhere near as good as they were 30 years ago."
But the England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive, Tim Lamb, warned against a mood of doom and gloom, stressing that cricket's hierarchy had been putting forward radical proposals to improve the state of the Test side.
"We can't turn things round overnight," he said. "Australia have a culture of excellence at school, grade and state level. They are the top team in the world and we should never forget they are a very fine, very talented side.
"Of course we want to raise the standard of cricket here and there is a unity of purpose throughout the whole game. But I don't want to be a hostage to fortune. It will take time."
The chairman of selectors, David Graveney, believes England's failed Ashes campaign began to hit problems in the first Test after the Australians were let off the hook. Alan Mullally's failure to run out Steve Waugh on the first day of the series is now seen as a turning point by Graveney.
"Nobody does that on purpose but there is no point in fudging the issue. Mistakes have been made and a team like Australia will punish you if you make them," Graveney said.
"We have to show character in the final Tests and the one-day matches and put the recent disappointments behind us.
"It is hard enough losing, but losing to Australia for an English cricketer is a particularly galling experience. It is the job of management to pick the players up," he added.
English cricket should take a cool and calm view, according to the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, Lord MacLaurin.
"It is unfortunate and we are very disappointed, particularly after the series against South Africa last summer, but there will be no call from us for any resignations," he said.
"It is just one of those things. It could be said we were slightly unfortunate to lose the toss in Adelaide but we have to face the facts that we have under-performed at national level for quite a few years.
"If you have something that has not been good for a while, you have to take it apart and put it together again."
The Sports Minister, Tony Banks, also reacted phlegmatically, saying, "It is important to do well at sport but remember it is only a sport that we are talking about, it is not as if someone has declared war on us."
Meanwhile, England have the worst tail in the world. According to the ratings released yesterday by Pricewaterhouse Coopers, England are bottom of the nine Test-playing nations on 288 points, compared with South Africa, whose No 8-11 batsmen are top with 1,058 points.
The ineptitude of England's bowlers is also put into perspective by the fact that Australia's tail-enders are only eighth in the list on 395 points.
n The former Sussex and Australian Test player Tony Dodemaide will take over as MCC's head of cricket in February, having been MCC marketing manager for five years.
THE ASHES: ANATOMY OF FAILURE
England have gone 11 years and five series since Mike Gatting last returned from Australia having led them to an Ashes victory. Below are all the encounters since:
Date Venue Result
Jan '87 Sydney Aus won by 55 runs
Jan '88 Sydney Drawn
Jun '89 Headingley Aus won by 210 runs
Jun '89 Lord's Aus won by 6 wkts
Jul '89 Edgbaston Drawn
Jul '89 Old Trafford Aus won by 9 wkts
Aug '89 Trent Bridge Aus won by inns & 180 runs
Aug '89 The Oval Drawn
Nov '90 Brisbane Aus won by 10 wkts
Dec '90 Melbourne Aus won by 8 wkts
Jan '91 Sydney Drawn
Jan '91 Adelaide Drawn
Feb '91 Perth Aus won by 9 wkts
Jun '93 Old Trafford Aus won by 179 runs
Jun '93 Lord's Aus won by inns & 62 runs
Jul '93 Trent Bridge Drawn
Jul '93 Headingley Aus won by inns & 148 runs
Aug '93 Edgbaston Aus won by 8 wkts
Aug '93 The Oval Eng won by 161 runs
Nov '94 Brisbane Aus won by 184 runs
Dec '94 Melbourne Aus won by 295 runs
Jan '95 Sydney Drawn
Jan '95 Adelaide Eng won by 106 runs
Feb '95 Perth Aus won by 329 runs
Jun '97 Edgbaston Eng won by 9 wkts
Jun '97 Lord's Drawn
Jul '97 Old Trafford Aus won by 268 runs
Jul '97 Headingley Aus won by inns & 61 runs
Aug '97 Trent Bridge Aus won by 264 runs
Aug '97 The Oval Eng won by 19 runs
Nov '98 Brisbane Drawn
Nov '98 Perth Aus won by 7 wkts
Dec '98 Adelaide Aus won by 205 runs
Total record: P33 W4 D9 L20Reuse content