Australian captain Ricky Ponting admits a third Ashes defeat could cost him his job and says he faces the biggest eight months of his career.
He has also not ruled out retiring should the Australian side follow a home Ashes series victory over England this summer with a fourth consecutive limited overs World Cup triumph.
Having twice lost the urn in England, the skipper has acknowledged losing a series at home could be a blow too heavy for even him to withstand, rushing the leadership into the hands of Michael Clarke.
“I’d probably be looking for a new job if we lose again,” Ponting told the London Daily Mail.
“It’s as simple as that.
“I’ve got the biggest eight months of my career coming up.
“We are playing India, then England and then the World Cup.
“It doesn’t get any bigger than that and everything I do between now and April will be geared at getting the most out of myself and, most importantly, the group.
“If I’m able to do that I think there are some pretty special things on the horizon for this team.”
Ponting has always said that he will keep playing so long as he is enjoying the game, but left a little room for the possibility of retirement when asked if an Ashes and World Cup double would be the perfect send-off.
“I don’t know if there’s ever a perfect time to go,” said Ponting.
“We’ll see. I’ve always said if I don’t feel I can play the way I want to or if I can’t improve any more then it will be time to look at what I’m doing.
“But I’m definitely as motivated as ever and as hungry as I’ve ever been.
“And after scoring runs at the Oval I’m feeling more like my old self, too.”
Those runs in the fourth one-day international against England lifted some pressure from Ponting’s shoulders after a slow start to the winter tour, but he said he was not feeling any more weight of expectation than usual.
“I haven’t thought about any added pressure on me,” he said.
“I’m just thinking about being the best player I can be and having a significant impact on the Ashes series as a batsman and as a leader.”
A question about whether England now held an edge over Australia in all three forms of the game did raise Ponting’s ire earlier in the tour, and he explained that he would still feel like his team was superior until the ICC rankings reflected the change.
“That did get under my skin a little bit because we’re still ranked the best side in one-day cricket and No.2 in Test cricket,” said Ponting.
“Until England get their heads above us in all of the tables then superiority will be with us.
“Yes, they have played some good cricket against us in all forms and we’ll see where that takes them over the next few months.
“You can tell England are making progress because they haven’t kept on changing their side like they have done in the past and you have to give (captain) Andrew Strauss and (coach) Andy Flower the credit.”