Champions League Twenty20 2011 September 17, 2011

Everyone expects us to go home - Hoggard

The contrast could not have been more obvious. Six Leicestershire players swaggered in for the media briefing behind their captain Matthew Hoggard, who was grinning from ear to ear, trying his best to appear excited and interested. After seeing that the reporters were sitting about 20 feet from his table, he even implored them to "shout" out the questions, before realising that there were microphones in place.

A couple of hours later, a pale-looking Mahela Udawatte trudged in, his only accompaniments being Ruhuna coach Sumithra Warnakulasuriya and a weak promise of a possible late appearance by Sanath Jayasuriya.

Given the gregarious mood Hoggard was in, it did not take him long to move beyond the standard phrases which press conferences are routinely littered with. "We are the underdogs. Everyone expects us to go home," Hoggard said. Why should a side that has just won a gruelling domestic Twenty20 tournament - after 16 league matches and a tied semi-final decided by an eliminator - be treated as the underdog? Hoggard had an answer. "We do not have too many star players," he said.

"But we have got some good solid match-winners. We have Andrew McDonald, Abdul Razzaq. It's going to be an interesting tournament. India is a tough place to come and get results. Two games [per side for the qualifiers] is a bit of a lottery but it also takes only two good games to take it away from the opposition. We have come with high hopes."

Leicestershire have sufficient reason to hold sky-high expectations. They had a loss of £400,000 last year and Mike Siddall, their chief executive, admitted earlier that it has been a financial struggle for the club. They stand to gain substantially if they can make it through to the main draw of the Champions League Twenty20.

Money was the last thing on Hoggard's mind though. "You don't play for money. It is a challenge for us to come here and test ourselves at this level against competitive and top sides from around the world. The money looks after itself."

Testing themselves against top T20 opposition is something that Sri Lankan sides haven't found too easy in the previous editions of the Champions League but Udawatte was hopeful of a turnaround this time. "We've got a good side of youngsters as well as experienced players like Sanath," Udawatte said. "Batting is our strength but we have also got some decent spinners and fast bowlers."

It is the bowlers that are absent though that are a cause of worry for coach Warnakulasuriya. "We are missing out on Chanaka Welegedara, Suraj Randiv and Shaminda Eranga who are all doing national duty against Australia. The bowling department is a bit weak."

Not having heard such an honest admission throughout the day, all the reporters suddenly went very quiet. Udawatte tried looking at some positives. "We are really lucky to have Sanath. He is always giving good ideas in the dressing room."

The mood wasn't getting uplifted so easily though. And when it was finally announced that Jayasuriya was not going to make an appearance after all, the briefing ended in disappointed groans.

Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo