Australian Test legend Ricky Ponting wants senior figures in Australian cricket to end their silence on the boiling captaincy debate that has left Tim Paine hanging on by a thread.
Paine's captaincy has emerged as the biggest unknown following Australia's 2-1 Border-Gavaskar defeat — sealed with the tourist's dramatic win at the Gabba this week.
An injury-ravaged India inflicted Australia's first defeat in a Test match in Brisbane since 1988.
The post mortem has focused on 36-year-old Paine's future and his ability to lead Australia into battle for next summer's home Ashes series against England.
Ponting summed up the situation by simply declaring Cricket Australia can end the storm by coming out publicly and announcing their verdict about who will lead Australia in the tour of South Africa, scheduled for March.
"I think he'll be captain there and I think he'll be captain next summer in the Ashes as well," Ponting told Channel 7.
"One way or the other they absolutely should do that. There is no reason why they should need to prolong it."
The debate has been fuelled by the expert opinion of revered figures in Australian cricket, including Mark Waugh and Mark Taylor questioning Paine's captaincy while lamenting the unclear succession that has left Australia with Steve Smith, Pat Cummins and Marnus Labuschagne all emerging as captaincy options.
Former Ashes villain Kevin Pietersen said on Wednesday the situation is much worse than that for Paine.
"Australians don't like to lose and the knives will be out for a few members of that team after this defeat," Pietersen told Betway.
"I believe that Cricket Australia will soon be looking for a new captain – Paine has never, ever been up to it.
"He got chucked into that position when Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft got caught up in the sandpaper controversy, but from my perspective, having played against him and watched him, he's not an Australia captain.
"He's just not a good enough player, apart from anything else. I would never have made him captain in the first place, and he's probably never going to lead them into another Test match."
It comes as Taylor and veteran cricket guru Robert Craddock both cautioned against Australia loading more responsibility on the shoulders of spearhead Cummins, who emerged as the most crucial player in the squad after his shining performance with the ball this summer.
Taylor said even for Paine — and the demands that come with him being dialled in for every delivery in the field – it is hard to focus on tactical captaincy with a bulging workload.
"Pat Cummins will obviously come into the thinking because he's vice-captain, but the worry will be you'll end up with a similar problem the next time Australia are in day five [of a Test match]," he told the SMH.
"Maybe I'm selling Pat Cummins a bit short, but it's a lot to do to be the No. 1 strike bowler or the keeper, and be the captain on day five in Sydney and day five at the Gabba.
"One of the problems that Tim was always going to have [as captain] was being a keeper."
Craddock reported senior figures in Cricket Australia remain "perpetually concerned" about the lack of a clear standout to replace Paine.
Aussie great Mark Waugh further muddied the debate by declaring a return to Smith is the only replacement option for Australia — should Paine lose the faith of selectors.
"If he's not captain, who are the choices? That's the issue," Waugh said, according to The Daily Telegraph.
"If there was a standout candidate I think it might be time for him to step down as captain, but I don't see it. I just don't see it. Unless Steve Smith is going to do it there's no one else I can see who could be captain.
"I think Paine has done a pretty good job and maybe he needs a bit more help on the field with the senior players, because it's difficult to be a keeper and captain.
"I think under pressure we saw that affected his wicketkeeping, because he's a very good wicketkeeper, he doesn't drop many catches. But this series he has done when he's been under pressure, trying to win the game."