Sydney:Australia's press on Monday backed Ricky Ponting as the best man to continue leading the national team despite his becoming only the second Australian skipper to lose two Ashes series in England.
England regained the Ashes on Sunday with a 197-run win over Australia in the fifth Test at The Oval with a day to spare.
As the inquest began here into Australia's 2-1 series defeat, Ponting's captaincy came under renewed scrutiny after he joined Billy Murdoch way back in 1884 and 1890 as the second Australian captain to lose two Ashes series in England.
But the embattled Ponting received a vote of confidence from senior pundits, who directed more of their ire towards the national selectors for their role in the side's demise.
"For all those lining up Ricky Ponting as a cheap scapegoat for another Ashes failure in England, by all means take aim at his batting," The Australian's Malcolm Conn fired.
"But forget all that nonsense about criticising Ponting's captaincy. He remains unequivocally the best player to lead the team.
"Ponting is not a bad captain and his record says as much. Few have had more success in the history of the game. The captain is often an easy target for superficial criticism."
The Sydney Morning Herald's cricket columnist Peter Roebuck, who has been a stringent critic of Ponting's leadership in the past, also backed him.
"In another dispensation his sacking would be inevitable. But he knows that Australian cricket is more likely to back him," Roebuck said.
"It is hard for foreigners to understand the prestige attached to the position.
"He survived losing the Ashes in 2005 (and) in any case the (2009) defeats have been close, the solitary victory was unexpected, several great players have withdrawn and the captain's overall record remains impressive."
Long-time ABC radio commentator Jim Maxwell said Ponting has the Australian captaincy as long as he wants it.
"Ponting cannot be blamed for the loss although he will take responsibility for it because he had the personnel to deliver a better result," Maxwell said.
"His own place is secure, as is the captaincy for as long as he maintains hunger and form."
Former Test spinner Greg Matthews said questions still had to be asked of Ponting's decision-making.
"As the captain it's hard to imagine Ponting wouldn't have had a big say in the selection of the team," Matthews said on SBS TV.
"The captain must accept the responsibility of the role and there has to be questions asked of tactics and the selections that were made."
But there was unanimity in criticising the selection panel for their part in the Ashes loss.
"The selectors have had an ordinary year and it has got no better in England these past two months," Conn said.
"For the whole of this campaign the mantra has been to pick the team for the conditions.
"So if players are to go for this disappointing Ashes display, should selectors go too?"
Former Test opener Michael Slater and former captain Ian Chappell have led the chorus calling for the selection panel, chaired by Andrew Hilditch, to be made accountable for Ashes failures, The Daily Telegraph said.
"The Australian selectors have faced serious issues right through the series and they have not been solid. The selectors need to be made answerable at the end of this campaign," Slater told the newspaper.
Chappell said it was an incredible blunder not to pick frontline spinner Nathan Hauritz on a dry and dusty Oval pitch which turned from day one and always looked suited to spin.
The Daily Telegraph's Robert Craddock said urgent changes needed to be made to the national selection panel.
"They did have some good moments in the Ashes series but the failure to play a spinner in the last Test on a dry wicket hurt them badly," he said.
"Since Hilditch took over as chairman, the selectors' thought processes have become very hard to follow."