Sydney - Australian Cricketers' Association chief Paul Marsh has lashed out at talk that Ricky Ponting could be axed as captain on the eve of a crucial World Cup game, describing the official who leaked the information as "gutless" and "irresponsible".
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Marsh was seething at a report in the Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday, citing an unnamed Cricket Australia official as saying there was stiff opposition at boardroom level to the 36-year-old staying in the job.
"We need to be looking at the future. It's time for us to make a change," said the official in comments that reverberated around the Australian camp in India.
Marsh was not impressed, particularly with the speculation coming so close to their quarter-final against India in Ahmedabad on Thursday.
"Firstly, if a senior official is going to make such inflammatory comments about our national captain, and one of this country's greatest-ever players, how about having the guts to at least put your name to them," he told the Herald on Wednesday.
"Secondly, the team is days away from one of its biggest games in recent memory, and now they have to deal with the speculation and discussion surrounding these irresponsible comments.
"I've been scratching my head all day trying to work out why someone associated with CA would make these comments two days before a World Cup quarter-final."
Ponting, who has been captain for nine years, was under pressure even before the World Cup, having earned the dubious distinction of becoming the only Australian skipper to fail to win the Ashes three times.
He has done himself no favours in India, taking a reprimand from the International Cricket Council after smashing a dressing-room TV in a fit of fury after being run out during Australia's win over Zimbabwe.
He was also criticised for angrily throwing the ball to the ground after colliding with teammate Steven Smith during their victory over Canada, and for failing to walk in Saturday's defeat to Pakistan.
But the team has rallied round the star batsman.
"From my point of view he's the best man for the job, and has been our leader for a long time. He's certainly got the full support of all the team. We love having him as our captain," said Michael Hussey.