Sack Ponting and let Warne lead Australia, declares Lillee

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The Independent Online

Ponting was criticised for some of his tactics during the 2-1 series defeat and Lillee now believes it is time for a change at the top. "If Australia want to regain the Ashes they would dramatically improve their chances by appointing Shane Warne as captain," Lillee said.

"If we are to get this team back on the rails the plan has to go way deeper than making a few cosmetic changes to the XI which surrendered to England.

"Australia were ambushed by England because way too many people right across the board were living in a comfort zone. Cricket Australia executives, the coach, the manager, the captain and support staff must be all held accountable for this disaster. It's going to take time to digest and ... the first priority is to appoint a captain who can lead from the front."

Warne - who, along with Simon Katich, is expected to play for Hampshire against Glamorgan in the County Championship match at Cardiff that gets under way today - had a spell as the Australia vice-captain only to be stripped of his responsibilities in 2000 for his off-field behaviour, but Lillee now believes that the time is right for him to return.

"Ricky Ponting will come under the microscope as a losing skipper but I got the impression Warne was the pseudo captain during the fifth Test at the Oval. Warne was heavily involved in helping set the field and whenever I turned on the television he was speaking on behalf of the Australian team. There is no doubt Warne has an amazing cricket brain - but not only that, he plays at 120 per cent.

"Desperate times call for desperate measures but Warne led from the front throughout the tour and I wouldn't be worried about his previous indiscretions off the field. If you thought this England team was good just wait and see how much better it will be by the time of the next Ashes."

Ponting faced the Australian media yesterday after his flight from London. "There's a burning desire to make sure we get those Ashes back as soon as we can," he said. "It's important we have an in-depth review of the series, to examine what we did well - and what we did poorly.

"We can learn a little bit from the way England have played, and from their off-field set-up. They have lots of assistant coaches providing expert advice, and certainly have more hands on deck than we do. Hopefully we as players can learn something from them, because Shane Warne has been the only really consistent performer we had through the summer."

Ponting said that he would stand back and not push Warne into making a quick decision on his future. "I'll leave it to him to work out," the captain said. "Having said that, I would like Warney to play as long as he physically can, because he is so vital to our team."