Melbourne: Calls for Ricky Ponting's retirement from international cricket grew stronger with Test legend Doug Walters and former wicketkeeper Ian Healy joining the chorus saying the former Australian captain should call it a day with the two-Test series at home against New Zealand next month.
The Australian media has also come down heavily on Ponting, who turns 37 next month, and said the batting legend has to be honest with himself.
Walter, a huge fan of Ponting, said he is getting towards the end.
"I'm a huge fan of Ricky as a batsman, but he's getting towards the end and perhaps we can get more out of him if he moves down a notch (in the batting line-up)," Walters was quoted as saying by The Daily Telegraph.
Ponting, who took over from Steve Waugh, stepped down from captaincy earlier this year after Australia's quarter-final exit from the World Cup. He led Australia in 77 Tests, winning 48, the most for any captain. He also captained Australia in a record 228 ODIs and won 164, including two World Cups in 2003 and 2007.
Ponting, the third highest run getter in Tests, is having a miserable run of form with the bat. In the ongoing Test series in South Africa, he made 8 and 0 in the first Test in Cape Town and fell for a third-ball duck in the first innings of the ongoing Test in Johannesburg.
His last half-century came a year ago and his last century, a majestic 209, came almost two years ago against Pakistan in Hobart. He has averaged just 25 in his last 14 innings and has failed to reach double figures seven times in his last 13 innings.
Healy said faults are visible in his former teammate's batting, something that he has never seen before.
"There are faults that have never been in his technique before and I don't like his statistics from the past 12 months. No one who has played for as long as he has should be averaging in the teens. I think it's a pretty easy decision. He's been on the wane for some time now and without something special, it's time for Ricky to say, 'I'm finishing'," said Healy.
Ponting, however, got the much-needed backing from legendary captain Allan Border and former England captain Tony Greig.
Border, a commentator in the ongoing Test series, refused to comment on Ponting's future but The Daily Telegraph reported that Border is privately convinced that Ponting has more to offer the national team and believes he should dig his heels in.
Greig feels that Australia still don't have a good enough replacement for Ponting .
"I suspect Ponting will go into the new summer in Australia regardless of what happens in this Test," Greig said. "If it keeps going wrong they have to look at somebody else, but is there someone who has made four (first-class) hundreds in a row and deserves to step into that position?"
New selection boss John Inverarity refused to put an expiry date on Ponting, but said the National Selection Panel (NSP) is keen to inject fresh blood into the Australian team.
"Ricky Ponting is a magnificent cricketer and a fine man, a very resilient man. All selectors are always looking for a change of blood and to bring young players in and you have to balance that with picking your best side," he said.