England skipper Joe Root has been more like a little boy than a leader under the immense pressure of the Ashes series and must step up, former Australia captain Ricky Ponting has said.
Australia have comprehensively defeated England in the first three tests of the five-match series to win back the urn and would aim to complete a whitewash with victories in Melbourne and Sydney.
Ponting believes Root is too soft spoken and urged the 26-year-old to shed his shyness and galvanize the squad.
"Joe seems like he is under the sort of extreme pressure that he has never felt before, which is what you would expect in an Ashes contest," Ponting was quoted as saying by the British media.
"Everything about it is more intense than anything else you play... I know he is not (naturally) too forthright or too on the front foot, but the way he addressed things last week... I think they need him to step up big time.
"The way he answered a lot of the questions after the game last week, and almost the Brisbane game as well, he seemed almost like a little boy. You need to be more than that as a leader, especially when things aren't going well."
Ponting said that Root's poor showing with the bat during the series, in which he has managed to score just 176 runs, is another indication of the skipper's mental struggles.
England's players have been involved in several off-the-field controversies with batsman Ben Duckett the latest to be suspended earlier this month.
Ponting believes the players' antics show a lack of respect for Root and undermine his authority.
Ponting also criticised Root and England head coach Trevor Bayliss for saying that the visitors' players were on the same level as their Australian counterparts after the defeat at WACA.
"Listening to him post-game in Perth, and Trevor does the same thing, where they keep talking about how good they have been and how competitive. I am not seeing that at all," Ponting added.
"... I think they have been completely blown away and blown off the park. Unless you can find some drastic ways to get better, I'm not sure how they are going to improve."
The fourth test starts on Dec. 26 at the Melbourne Cricket