Ricky Ponting believes India will provide a stronger contest than Sri Lanka and has warned the new captain Anil Kumble to expect extra heat during the four-Test series. Due to a change in the traditional itinerary, Australia now have a five-week break before Boxing Day and Ponting hopes it won't disrupt the team's momentum.
"It's up to us to start the Melbourne Test the same way we started in Brisbane," Ponting said after the 96-run win over Sri Lanka in Hobart. "Hopefully we can get on top of them early and stay there for the rest of the summer. At the moment India are probably a slightly stronger side than Sri Lanka and last time India were here they played very well against us."
India start their three-match series against Pakistan on Thursday and Australia will be watching Kumble in his new role. "Kumble will be under pressure coming to Australia," Ponting said. "Anyone who captains India is always under a lot of pressure. A lot of very, very good players in the past haven't been able to cope with that.
"Sachin Tendulkar probably didn't ever really want to do it, I don't think. Rahul Dravid did it for a short period of time. When he resigned he said he just wasn't enjoying the role."
Ponting is already aiming for a strong opening when the teams meet in Melbourne. "If we play well and start the series well," he said, "generally we can put the captain under pressure."
However, he was wary of India's ageing stars. "Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman and Tendulkar are all very good players and they have all done well against Australia in the past," he said. "We know how dangerous they can be."
While Ponting's team can relax for a couple of weeks, Sri Lanka return home on Wednesday to prepare for the three-match series with England starting on December 1. Mahela Jayawardene said it was important for his team to refocus quickly after the heavy 2-0 defeat to Australia.
"We have to sit down and talk about where we are as a group and show character as a group," Jayawardene said. "We have to realise we played against the best team in the world right now and they were in form as well."
Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo