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November 21, 2008
Middlesex's chief executive, Vinny Codrington, said he was getting "positive noises" from the ECB regarding Shah, who is currently involved in the one-day series against India, but it still seems unlikely that Strauss will be released from his England duties as he is a certainty to open the batting in the Test series.
"The ECB have been fabulous, we have had close dialogue with them throughout and continue to do so with relation to the two of them," Codrington said. "We are optimistic that they will be made available to play for us. It clearly depends on a number of things in the run-up to the first Test, for example if Owais was to get into the squad, but we're very optimistic they will be available to us, if not required in the Test.
"We would not wish to stand in way of either individual playing for England. Owais has had positive conversations with Peter Moores and if he isn't needed for the warm-up he'll join us. They [the ECB] are very keen as English representatives for us to do well in the tournament."
The proximity of the Champions League to the first Test, which starts on December 11, the day after the final, has already provided difficulties. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who will play for Chennai Super Kings, won't be able available for the final if his team makes it, although for a while it looked as though the Test would be pushed back a day.
Depending on how far Middlesex progress, a similar situation could occur with Shah and, even if he isn't part of the first Test plans, the England management would have to decide if they wanted a squad member to be absent from the touring party so close to a major match.
The UK-based Middlesex players will leave for India next Thursday, a couple of days ahead of schedule, to spend time acclimatising before the tournament starts on December 3. They will be joined by Tyron Henderson, who will fly in from South Africa, Murali Kartik who is already in India and England Academy pair Dawid Malan and Eoin Morgan from their stay in Bangalore.
Strauss also flew out with the Academy party on Friday and is due to have talks with the England management tomorrow about his chances of playing for Middlesex. "It's a moveable feast and something we won't know for certain until we get out there," added Codrington. "But we are getting positive noises from the ECB."
It's no wonder, given the logistics of getting the squad together, that Codrington became slightly confused at the press conference, as he was listing the whereabouts of all the players, by stating "Shaun Udal is already in India," when the Middlesex captain was sat next to him.
The build-up to the tournament has not been simple for Middlesex, who have been hamstrung by the ruling that the squad they take can only include players who helped them win the domestic event in July. That prevented them including new signing Neil Dexter, who officially joined the club on October 1, and was part of the Stanford Super Series squad.
"As has been documented we didn't think we'd have Andrew [Strauss] so we tried to get Neil Dexter to replace him," Codrington said. "We appealed to the technical committee and they rejected it as they are very keen that the side that goes to the Champions League was the same side that represented us in the domestic."
The untried world of domestic sides playing on a global stage has thrown up a number of interesting scenarios. Already, Mike Hussey has confirmed he will play for Chennai rather than Western Australia and Middlesex also have the chance of facing one of their own with left-arm quick Dirk Nannes turning out for Victoria.
The ruling is that, unless a transfer fee is paid, as has been the case with Hussey and Albie Morkel, that a player who has qualified with two clubs must represent the side they first had success with.
Most intriguingly, though, is a potential meeting with the Rajasthan Royals if Middlesex qualify for the later stages of the event. That would bring Udal head-to-head with Shane Warne, his former captain at Hampshire. "We'll see him in the final," Udal said confidently. Middlesex start as outsiders in India, but as Udal added, that was how they were seen throughout the Twenty20 Cup last summer. "It suits us just fine," he said.
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