Melbourne:Former captains Richie Benaud, Bill Lawry and Mark Taylor on Monday threw their weight behind Ricky Ponting and said people need to be patient as the present Australian side goes through a difficult transition phase under its beleaguered skipper.
Benaud, Lawry and Taylor feel people should go easy on Ponting, who is trying to cope with the retirements of stalwarts Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath.
"During the past 15 months nine players have retired, three of them greats of the game," Benaud said.
He said Australia faced a similar crisis in 1963-64 when he, Neil Harvey, Alan Davidson and (Ken) 'Slasher' Mackay and retired together and Bob Simpson had to rebuild the side. "It was extremely difficult on him, in a similar way that Ponting now is without his main strike bowlers," said Benaud.
"And in 1983-84, Greg Chappell, Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh retired together. That left a huge hole in the Australian team. The same thing is happening now with the retirements of so many quality, experienced players, headed by Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist," he added. Explaining Ponting's predicament, Benaud said.
"Suddenly Ricky Ponting has an attack minus Warne and McGrath, who captured more than 1200 wickets between them and were genuine matchwinners.
"It was never going to be easy, and the public must be patient and understanding because pity the captain who must make do without the champions he has been accustomed to having at his disposal," Benaud was quoted as saying by the 'Herald Sun'.
Like Benaud, Lawry also felt Ponting should be given some time to weather the crisis.
"It is never easy to win in India and we lost, as usual. But immediately the critics were out for him. He is leading a transition of the Australian team, so the public needs to accept that and be patient," Lawrie said.
Taylor, who led the national team when Ponting made his debut, felt it was unjust to put the blame squarely on the captain.
"Criticising an Australian captain in charge of a losing side is something that hasn't changed since the game started. He is the man most under scrutiny.
"...for years we have been talking about what will happen in the post-Warne/McGrath era, predicting we will come back to the field. Now it has happened and, almost as if it is a shock to some people, we are struggling. Australia still could have won that Perth Test. So at least we are still competitive.
"This was always going to be a transitional period and now it is upon us. It would be wrong to blame Ponting as if he suddenly is at fault. He's not," Taylor said.
Former Australia player Dean Jones too is taken aback by the amount of criticism Ponting has to cope with.
"Ponting has inherited a top team, but has now lost Warne, McGrath, Gilchrist, Langer and Martyn in a short space of time. Yet he has still kept Australia No.1 and he has done well just to achieve that.
The West Indies lost their top 15 players in three and a half years and they couldn't bounce back. They may never bounce back," said Jones.