Perth: Adam Gilchrist said here Friday that he believed the stress of a long and often troubled campaign was affecting the form of Australian skipper Ricky Ponting.
Ponting has endured a lean run on home turf by his own lofty standards.
He scored just 128 runs at 21.33 in the first three Tests of the contentious series against India, which Australia won 2-1, before grafting out a hundred in the final Test in Adelaide.
In the tri-series, he has been troubled by back soreness and scored just 43 runs at 10.75, reaching double figures for the first time in Friday's win over Sri Lanka.
Most worrying for Ponting is the number of times he has been caught behind the wicket, a trend that continued on Friday when he guided a ball straight to first slip.
Vice-captain Gilchrist said a long Test and one-day campaign, combined with off-field issues were a heavy load for Ponting to bear.
Among the dramas Ponting found himself in the middle of was the controversy over Indian bowler Harbhajan Singh, who was accused by Aussie all-rounder Andrew Symonds of racism during the infamous Sydney Test. He also became caught up in the row over players taking part in the upcoming Indian Premier League (IPL).
"I am sure he, like all of us, will have been worn down by a lot of the focus and a lot of the issues that have been around," Gilchrist said after the 63-run win over Sri Lanka that lifted Australia back to the top of the tri-series table.
"We seem to have jumped from one thing to another, whether they be highly controversial or just issues that need to be dealt with. Things like the Pakistan tour hanging around, the IPL, the Indian Test series and all the issues there in the (Harbhajan) hearing.
"He has had to take the brunt of it and I think we have got to acknowledge that he does that and stands up and wants to do it, that is his job."
Gilchrist said Ponting had been doing a great job under the circumstances and backed his class to shine through with the bat before too long.
He said it was up to the other players to show their support for Ponting.
"He is still running the team beautifully, captaining," Gilchrist said.
"We have got to rally around him and keep him going but he is a class act and he will be fine."
Gilchrist said the scheduling of the tri-series, with Australia playing only on Fridays and Sundays, also made life tough, and conceded the squad struggled with a four-day break followed by two games in three days.