Melbourne: Criticism turned to appreciation as the Australian media hailed cricket captain Ricky Ponting`s defiant hundred in the World Cup quarterfinal loss to India but conceded that the once-dominant team is well past its prime now.
The under-fire Ponting overcame a 13-month-long lean patch with a 104 run knock against India but could not save his team from the ignominy of defeat after the hosts successfully managed to chase the target of 261 with five wickets to spare.
"Ricky Ponting has subdued calls for his dumping as captain with a stoic overdue century despite Australia making their earliest exit from a World Cup in almost two decades," is how the media reacted at the loss.
Although the cricket lovers in Australia still want to see the 36-year-old performing at the big stage but they definitely don`t want him to don the skipper`s cap, with 65 percent fans out of a total of 10,000 wanting him to shun the captaincy, according to a newspaper poll.
One fan said on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) web site, "Very gutsy innings by Ponting. Shut a few of his critics up ... I would still prefer to see him move on, but it will be harder for selectors to axe him after a 100."
Another agreed, "It`s now time for Ricky Ponting to relinquish the captaincy.”
"If pride or prestige of being captain is an issue then I believe it is time for the selectors to make this decision for the good of the team. A captain who has tantrums on and off the field is not fit to captain, and that is what Ricky did during this World Cup Series."
ABC commentator Glenn Mitchell pondered, "The question still remains as to how many more times will he don the coloured uniform of his country.”
"But he can rest in the knowledge that his last World Cup innings was one to be savoured," Mitchell said.
"Ricky Ponting`s spot in the Australian cricket team is safe for now but his side`s glorious World Cup era is over after losing their quarter-final to India," is how Daily Telegraph described the defeat.
Terming the skipper`s knock as an added confusion in the choice of future captain, The Herald-Sun`s Jon Anderson said, "Ponting`s gritty knock only further clouded the issue of the captaincy."
"Ricky Ponting`s career-saving century has done nothing but make what are already cloudy waters in Australian cricket even murkier.
"The reality is Ponting did what most great batsmen will do if they are given enough chances. The pity is he can no longer do it as regularly as he once did," he added.
Ponting has now presided over the end of Australia`s 12-year run as World Cup champions after his third Ashes series defeat to England earlier this year.