Under-fire Ponting defiant

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Ricky Ponting

Ricky Ponting cannot prevent Australia slipping to a third straight Test defeat yesterday - their worst run since 1988

Ricky Ponting is adamant he remains the best man to lead Australia's bid to regain the Ashes despite overseeing the team’s worst Test losing streak in 22 years.

A defiant Ponting returned to Sydney today a day after watching India take the Border-Gavaskar series 2-0 amid heavy criticism from former team-mate Shane Warne and ex-Australia paceman Geoff Lawson.

Warne questioned Ponting's field settings to beleaguered off-spinner Nathan Hauritz, while Lawson called for the skipper to hand the leadership to Michael Clarke for the Ashes.

Australia’s world ranking has slipped to five after three consecutive Test losses - their worst run since 1988.

Asked if he was still the right man for the job, Ponting replied firmly: "Absolutely - I've got no doubt about that at all.

"I will give my absolute best as I always have since I've been the Australian captain...to be the best leader I can be and the best player I can be.

"I'm trying to do the best I can as captain to help some of these guys through some difficult times. If I get criticised along the way, I can’t do anything about that."

Ponting admitted to being concerned at Australia's slide down the Test rankings, with Ashes holders England now above them.

"We were always very proud of the fact we were the number one-ranked team in Test cricket and one-day cricket for such a long period of time," Ponting said.

"Our Test form has not been as you would have liked. It's bad – no-one's proud of the fact we've lost three Test matches in a row. But I've got great confidence in all the players that will represent Australia this year."

One of those players, the oft-maligned Hauritz, found himself caught in the middle of a storm on day five of the second Test in Bangalore after Warne criticised Ponting's field placings on Twitter.

The former leg-spinner asked how Hauritz was supposed to bowl to the fields his captain was supposedly setting, criticising Ponting's negative tactics.

Brett Lee

Brett Lee, now retired from Test cricket, defended Ponting. "As the captain he will gather all his troops in," the paceman said

The skipper later explained Hauritz had set his own fields and revealed he had aired his grievances with Warne.

"We've exchanged a few messages and I'm not hiding the fact I was a little bit disappointed with the Tweets that I read," Ponting said. "What he had to say was very unfair. It was pretty ill-informed comments.

"I've never been one to run away or be too big or too good for criticism. I take criticism on the chin and try and become better for it. I've got to put it behind me and move on."

Ponting added Warne “didn't apologise” but things between the former team-mates were “pretty amicable”.

Earlier, paceman Brett Lee leapt to Ponting’s defence and insisted the team will bounce back in the Ashes.

Lee admits the dip in fortunes is disappointing but insists placing all the blame on Ponting is unfair.

“What happens when you lose a Test match, the name that comes up first is the captain, said Lee, who has retired from Test cricket but still hopes to play in the shorter formats for his country.

“He's the one that shoulders the responsibility (for a loss). “It's obviously disappointing but Australia have the chance to turn it around (as a squad). As the captain he (Ponting) will gather all his troops in.

“The guys are doing their best over there. It's tough conditions to play in India but I'm sure that when England side come out the guys will be firing and ready to go.”

Asked if the current Test record was a concern heading into the Ashes, Lee said: “It's not ideal but you know that an Australian squad when they have their backs against the wall is when they play their best cricket.

“I know the Australian side is so excited about the English coming out and I know they'll be eagerly doing their research and making sure they're ready to go.

“You take it (three straight losses) with a grain of salt really. We have lost three Test matches but I'm sure they can turn it around. I think we'll get everything together and play some decent cricket.”

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