England Focus On Test Ahead
England's arrival for their inaugural Test tour of Bangladesh may not have been the biggest entry on the world sports agenda but they have been given an immediate illustration of the excitement their presence has caused in local circles.
While the majority of the British sporting public focus on the fortunes of the four home nations in the forthcoming Rugby World Cup down under or the crucial test facing England's football team during Saturday's Euro 2004 qualifier in Istanbul, the nation's cricketers were confronted with an frenzied welcome on their arrival in Dhaka.
The locals turned up in their hundreds to witness Michael Vaughan and his side emerge from the airport terminal while they were also confronted with 15 local photographers and four television crews to underline the importance of this tour at least in local circles.
Captain Vaughan, leading England on his first overseas tour, was forced into an impromptu press conference at the airport after being mobbed by local journalists to begin the long winter schedule, which will also take in Sri Lanka before Christmas and West Indies next February, with something of a frenzy.
It is not a greeting England would have been surprised about in the cricket-loving sub-continent but it should act as a warning that despite facing a Bangladesh side still searching for their first Test victory in 24 attempts, the hope and expectations will not be found wanting in the two-match Test series to follow.
Preparations for that first Test, which begins in Dhaka on October 21 and follows two warm-up matches in the city, have already been slightly undermined by heavy rainfall greeting England's arrival which is expected to last for the majority of this week.
That has already forced the tourists to switch tomorrow's training session to the BKSP ground on the outskirts of the city, the base for Bangladesh's Academy and the venue for England's second warm-up match, because it is the only ground with indoor facilities.
But with a squad comprising five players - Martin Saggers, Paul Collingwood, Rikki Clarke, Gareth Batty and Geraint Jones - who are yet to feature at Test level, those early setbacks are unlikely to unsettle them on a tour they are determined to succeed despite its low profile.
Durham all-rounder Collingwood is certainly keen to make his mark having had his dreams of a Test call-up this summer shattered by a pre-season shoulder injury which sidelined him for four months and, given his chance, he is now determined to make up for lost time no matter what the standard of opposition.
"This is an important tour for a lot of people," stressed Collingwood, who had to have surgery on his left shoulder after sustaining a fracture while diving during a pre-season match against Lancashire at Old Trafford.
"I was able to watch a lot of the Tests against South Africa and England played some fantastic cricket during that series and it's up to us to continue that over the next few weeks - we will be imagining we are playing against the world's best and prepare in that way."
Collingwood can count himself as being particularly unlucky not to have featured at Test level already having excelled with the one-day line-up last winter, both during the one-day tournament in Australia and in England's ill-fated World Cup campaign.
The maturity he showed seemed certain to propel him into the Test side this summer but instead the injury left him on the sidelines, although his stature within the England set-up was underlined when they kept in contact with him throughout the summer to reassure him of his future at international level.
"The injury was a big blow for me because I had such a good winter and I was planning to come and get a load of runs for Durham to push for a place in the Test squad, and luckily the selectors have stuck by me and given me this opportunity," he explained.
"All the way through the summer the management have kept me in touch with me every couple of weeks. Either Duncan Fletcher or the ECB doctor Peter Gregory would be on the phone and it gives you something to look forward to.
"It was also good to be involved with the one-day side for a couple of weeks during the summer even if I couldn't get out onto the pitch. Just training with them gave me a lift - it was great man management."
That will also extend to England's determination not to hide away in their plush hotel during this tour and will instead encourage the squad to embrace the local culture and trips have already been arranged, including one to a local orphanage.
"My first impressions of Bangladesh is that it's very wet and there's a lot of water around," added Collingwood.
"there is a lot of poverty here but I like coming to places with a different culture like this.
"I enjoyed India and it really opens your eyes when you come to these places. We did a similar thing in Zimbabwe when we went on some trips and it makes you appreciate how lucky you are at times."