Soon time to separate the men from the boys at World Cup

A relatively early look at the markets ahead of next year’s World Cup in the United Kingdom shows the usual favourites, leaving supports and critics alike in a pickle as to who to back to take the title.

The likes of Australia, India, England and Pakistan are always the first names listed when naming the frontrunners, while dark horses like the West Indies and New Zealand are often popular among those who fancier somewhat of a cheekier punt.

It’s tough to see Sri Lanka go all the way, but one never knows how good they will be during a defined period. They’re much like Pakistan, as you never quite know which outfit – predictably poor or surprisingly supreme – will rock up on the day.

Whether or not Australia will have David Warner and Steven Smith at their disposal remains to be seen. Warner and Smith will be done with their ball-tampering bans by the time the ODI showpiece in England rolls around. But Cricket Australia’s intentions for the pair after the bans are not yet known.

Of course, South Africa will come into the tourney with their usual hopes – and ambition not to collectively choke when it counts the most. The Proteas are renowned for looking really good, only to fail at one of the final hurdles. They still have not won a World Cup – and will have to try do so this time around without the mercurial AB de Villiers. De Villiers walked away from international cricket earlier this year but will continue to play in the Indian Premier League and perhaps some other Twenty20 competitions around the world.

There will come a time when South Africa will have to look beyond what they can bring to the party in terms of runs and wickets and, in fact, take a deep and long gaze at their mental gameplans. These have gone to pot in the past, but perhaps they have this sort of edge to go further in 2019. Steely characters like JP Duminy and Faf du Plessis will be entirely key to the process, while they will need the likes of Keshav Maharaj and Kagiso Rabada to deliver with ball in hand time and time again. If they have any new caps in their squad, well, those one or two rookies are going to have to learn on their feet very quickly, especially as the opposition try to capitalise during the opening rounds.