New Delhi:India opener Gautam Gambhir on Tuesday threw his weight behind pacer Ishant Sharma, who is under fire for his lackluster performance in the Champions Trophy, saying the young bowler needs support not criticism at this crucial juncture of his career.
Ishant and his colleagues drew flak from all quarters for their wayward display during the Champions Trophy after India failed to go past the group stage of the elite eight-nation ICC event.
But Gambhir said the bowlers were not to be blamed for the debacle and the team paid the price for just one bad outing against Pakistan in their opening match.
"I am not the only one who is disappointed with the Champions Trophy result, every member of the team is disappointed. We played just one bad game and we were out of the tournament," said the Delhi Daredevils' captain ahead of the Champions League Twenty20.
"We were little unlucky as we could have won against Australia but the match was washed out," he said.
He feels his Delhi team-mate Ishant has performed well for India since making his debut two years ago and has the potential to lead India's pace attack.
"Ishant has been playing a lot of cricket. He has been consistently doing well for the last two years. He is just 21 and I feel one should give him that leverage. Instead of criticising him we should support him because it is very easy to criticise someone," Gambhir said.
"In future I am sure Ishant will be spearheading the Indian pace attack. We need to give him confidence," he added.
Although Ishant picked up three wickets during his two outings in the Champions Trophy, he was nowhere near his usual best, spraying the ball on both sides of the wicket.
Gambhir's Team India and Daredevils colleague Dinesh Karthik echoed the view and said not much should be read into India's poor show in one tournament.
"We played good cricket in the tournament except for the Pakistan match, which cost us dearly. We should not blame any particular individual or area for it as cricket is a team game," Karthik said.
After India's unceremonious ouster from the Champions Trophy, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni had held his bowlers responsible for the team's early exit.
Asked about the reported allegations that Pakistan had fixed their semifinal match against Australia, Gambhir said as a cricketer he wouldn't buy the theory.
"I don't feel any top side would like to do that. It's about the integrity of the game and the country. I you ask me I don't feel Pakistan has done that. Any professional cricketer would like to give his 100 per cent on the field," Gambhir said.
Match-fixing returned to haunt Pakistan after the national assembly standing committee on sports member Jamshed Khan Dasti accused the team of underperforming in the Champions Trophy.
On the Daredevils prospects in Champions League, Gambhir said given the team's consistency, the IPL side is a strong title contender for the event starting Thursday.
"There is no guarantee in cricket, especially in Twenty20. But looking back at the last two years of IPL, Delhi has been one of the most consistent sides. We also have the advantage of playing our first two matches at home.
"But there is no room for complacency against top sides. I feel it's a great platform for young domestic players. If they do well here, they can play for the country. It will also increase the pool of players," he said.