Lillee calls for Ponting sacking

Dennis Lillee, the former Australian fast-bowling great, called for Shane Warne to replace Ricky Ponting as captain of the Australian team. Lillee weighed into the national debate over the immediate future of the team with players returning home Wednesday after losing the series 2-1 to England on Monday. Lillee, one the giants of Australian cricket with 355 wickets in 70 Tests from 1971-84, also called for coach John Buchanan to go.

"If Australia want to regain the Ashes they would dramatically improve their chances by appointing Shane Warne as captain," Lillee wrote in The West Australian newspaper.

Lillee, 56, believed Warne, the world's leading wicket-taker, acted as a "pseudo captain" during the drawn fifth Test and felt Ponting should be left to concentrate on his batting.

"I got the distinct impression Warne was the pseudo captain during the fifth Test at The Oval," wrote Lillee. "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 cricketing brain - but not only that, any cricket he plays is at 120 percent and full of passion, guts and determination. 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," he said, adding that captaincy could extend the legspinner's career.

Warne, 36, was Australia's stand-out player of the series capturing 40 wickets in the five-Test series and scoring 249 runs - more than batsmen Simon Katich, Damien Martyn and Adam Gilchrist.

Lillee was wide-ranging in his criticism of the Australian team performance, railing on Cricket Australia officials and coach Buchanan. "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 team," he said.

"Make no mistake, 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 all be held accountable for this disaster."

Lillee said Matthew Hayden, Damien Martyn and Simon Katich were the most vulnerable batsmen with selection for next month's Test and one-day series with a World XI and this southern summer's tours by West Indies and South Africa.

A former fast bowling coach for the national side before falling out with Cricket Australia over a pay dispute last November, Lillee said the entire coaching structure needed to be reviewed.

"Do we really need a coach in John Buchanan and a manager in Steve Bernard?" he asked. "Would it be better with one person in charge with the title of manager - someone who could then call in batting, bowling and fielding experts to assist the team as England did with spectacular results.

"The coffers of Cricket Australia have never been so flush, so why isn't the money being ploughed back into helping the Test team instead of being allocated to CA executives and their wives so they can follow the team around in great luxury."