London, Nov 22 (UNI) Middlesex heads off to India next week tipped as the makeweights in a Champions League dripping with the world's best talent.
The Middlesex team are funding out of their own pockets for two extra days of training and time to acclimatise to alien conditions on the sub-continent.
They fly to Mumbai next Thursday, two days before the Champions League organisers are willing to pick up the tab for their hotel bills and expenses.
''The players have made a commitment to go out there and give themselves the best chance to perform so we are happy to take that hit in the pocket to give ourselves extra preparation time,'' said captain Shaun Udal.
''If we had gone out there on the 30th then we would only have two days to prepare and that is not long enough. We want to have four or five days of preparation, so we can have a warm-up match and play under the lights. That means we will pay out of our winnings for two days hotel accommodation and expenses.'' Middlesex qualified for the tournament by winning the Twenty20 Cup last summer but their performances during the Stanford week last month - three defeats in three matches, neatly summed up the English experience in Antigua.
''I was disappointed with our performances,'' said Udal. ''But as for the whole competition, I thought it was a good tournament. Ok the pitch wasn't very good and the floodlights were not up to it but the whole thing about Stanford running the thing himself, well, at the end of the day it is his ground, his money and his bat and ball. We were there to take part in the first ever Stanford competition and that was something to be embraced and I felt Stanford was harshly treated.'' Middlesex's opening match in Mumbai on December 3 is against the Victorian Bushrangers from Australia, they then switch to Madras to play Titans of South Africa and IPL runners-up the Chennai Super Kings. Led by India captain MS Dhoni and featuring Matthew Hayden and Muttiah Muralitharan, the match against Chennai will be the most daunting test.
''We are underdogs but that suits me,'' said Udal. ''We are the best side in this country at this form of cricket and with this squad I don't see why we can't do well. The conditions will be new to all the teams, obviously the IPL teams have an advantage, but we are on an even keel.'' UNI XC CS AB CS1302 *