Key Points:

Certain assumptions can be made about cricket's World Cup.

Here are three: Ricky Ponting will score a packet of runs; sixes will rain down on spectators like large hailstones; and the rum punch will flow copiously.

The TAB has Stephen Fleming's men at $7 to win the trophy, behind Australia at $3 and South Africa at $5. Fancy an Australia-New Zealand final? $8.50 thank you.

Only South African Makhaya Ntini, at $8, is at shorter odds than Shane Bond's $10 to be top wicket taker.

It all starts in Jamaica on Monday. The opening game between the West Indies and Pakistan on Wednesday should be a doozy, and then we wade through a fortnight of largely one-sided dross.

This is the price you pay for having a 16-team cup when there are only half that number who are truly competitive. Rugby's equivalent winner in October will come from an even smaller talent pool, despite starting out with 20 teams.

Each of the four cricketing groups has one standout clash - in New Zealand's case that's England in St Lucia next Saturday - and plenty of games with the potential to be all over in a couple of hours, depending on who bats first.

Then again, as Bangladesh demonstrated against New Zealand this week, maybe there is scope for an upset here and there. Hope so, otherwise it will be tough work retaining interest in those early days.

There are few things more designed to produce a mass tuneout than the likes of Bermuda batting first and being rolled for 45 - don't snigger, it's already happened in a warm-up - or a heavyweight team belting 350-plus against Ireland/Scotland/Canada/Holland.

The lead-up has already produced the occasional curious headline - "Bangladesh secure easy win" being one. The opponents were Scotland, but might have been New Zealand. Oh dear, third favourites you say?

Never fear, it's only warm-up time.

The show really gets interesting from the second, Super 8 stage, when picking winners will be as tricky as trying to avoid embarrassment in Super 14 footy this season.

And that's the way it should be, although I still can't fathom how on earth the Lions have won four of their five games, the Chiefs have won none of theirs and South African teams occupy three of the first four spots. Go figure.

The name game is always fun at times like this. So I'll be rooting for Scotland's Navdeep Punia, nicknamed 'Sat Nav'; Canada's Umar Bhatti; Bermuda's WWF representative Dwayne Levercock - as long as the giant blancmange doesn't get silly and attempt any quick twos; but most of all for Prosper Utseya, Zimbabwe's 21-year-old captain who has an ODI batting average of 10 after 59 games and has got his 37 wickets at 54 runs apiece.

An early winning tip? Sri Lanka.

* Several years ago, boxing heads were clamouring for a square-off between David Tua, then on his way up to an eventual meeting with world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, and Jimmy Thunder.

Thunder, when he was known as Peau, won the Commonwealth Games gold medal in Edinburgh in 1986. His best years were past him when this hometown hoedown was mooted, but Thunder, if he got things just right, still possessed the ability to deliver a one-hit lights-out punch.

The bout never came off. All sorts of reasons were put up, including the ludicrous one that the Pacific Island community didn't fancy the idea of seeing two of their own laying into each other.

There was another view that Tua stood to lose plenty if Thunder got that one punch in, potentially setting his rise up the rankings back a couple of years.

Now the noise is for Tua to tackle Shane Cameron so New Zealand bragging rights can be sorted out.

Cameron's camp, after his 18th successive pro win over ageing Australian Bob Mirovic this week in Sydney, are talking it up, as you'd expect. Tua's people, equally predictably, aren't interested. Theirs is a delicate situation.

Tua, at 34 and five years older than Cameron, has won five successive fights - never mind the quality, just stack up the Ws for the moment - and is hoping to position himself for another decent payday.

Lose to Cameron and it could all come tumbling down. Cameron has to beef up his credibility, the Tua camp somewhat lamely maintain.

It would be standing room only if staged in Auckland, but, like Tua-Thunder, it won't happen. Both men, but one in particular, have too much to lose, leaving the New Zealand fight game the biggest loser of the lot.