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Press gang up

Australian media labels Ponting's side as overrated and overpaid

Ponting: Underfire

Australia's unease over the state of their cricket deepened on Friday ahead of the Ashes series, with media labelling many Australian cricketers as overrated, over-indulged and overpaid.

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One newspaper said Australian cricket was in crisis amid descending gloom with the once-mighty national side having lost its sixth straight match in all forms of the game going back five months.

Ricky Ponting had the task of arresting that form slump as he returned as captain of Australia's side for the second one-day international against Sri Lanka in Sydney on Friday.

The Daily Telegraph said Australian cricket has "lost its mojo", mainly because it lacks talent but also because it has become soft and indulgent.

Under the headline "Why Australian cricket is in crisis," senior cricket writer Robert Craddock said: "Many players are getting huge money and national caps without earning either.

"Mike Hussey and Marcus North had to inject 10 years of gruelling first-class toil to get their national spurs. Several average interstate cricketers have got theirs recently after less than 10 games."

Silver spoon

Craddock said Australia was handing out a glut of national caps and creating a generation of players who think three or four good interstate games, rather than that many good seasons, should be a passport to international cricket.

He said at least six of the Australian team will earn more than AUS$1million this year - no matter how the team performs.

"This is the age of the silver spoon. Players have never been better looked after," he said.

"It's got to the stage where players have almost become over-managed. Many players lack the ability to think for themselves off the field and that can flow into their on-field psyche."

The Age said there was pressure on Cricket Australia to act to stop the malaise in the game.

"That cricket is being challenged like never before is not in doubt," it said.

"Cricket Australia has not been averse to pulling the bedclothes over its head in the past, but last week's revelation of a report into falling television audiences and stagnant crowds drew acknowledgement of the changing climate, and the need to act."

The newspaper said Australian cricket continued to "slide further into the mire" following Wednesday's embarrassing ODI loss to Sri Lanka, who posted a world record 132-run ninth-wicket partnership to snatch an improbable victory in Melbourne.

Cricket Australia said Friday more than 430,000 tickets had been sold for this summer's international series, including the Ashes, and it was releasing further tickets that had now become available.

The Ashes series against England gets underway in Brisbane on November 25.