Australia’s tour of Bangladesh went off without a major hitch – the degree of the “stone-throwing” incident is still hotly disputed – to the respite of the BCB.
The long convoy that traveled back and forth from the team hotel and stadium in Dhaka and Chittagong in the last two weeks included the players, coaches, match officials and the Australian journalists.
Except for one reporter.
Adam Collins, who was covering the tour as a freelance journalist, was the only member of the touring party who wasn’t inside the security net for the period of the tour.
It raised a few eyebrows but it was business as usual for Collins.
During the course of the tour, he interviewed Tamim Iqbal, Shahriar Nafees, Akram Khan and Taskin Ahmed’s mother for ESPNcricinfo, and visited homes of Tamim and Taskin in Chittagong and Dhaka respectively.
Like a seasoned traveler, he quickly appreciated the Bangladeshi way of living.
Collins traveled around Dhaka and Chittagong mostly on his own and by the time he left the country, he only had good things to say about the country, its cricket and people. But at the start of the tour, he did have his concern.
“Before I came, I definitely had concerns,” Collins told Dhaka Tribune.
“The advice from the Australian government was for people to reconsider their travel and lists a host of reasons why it is dangerous for a westerner to be in the country. By that point, I had decided that I wouldn’t be staying in the secure hotels with the team and other members of the press pack. So there was a degree of concern about what I was stepping into. But that dissipated pretty quickly after spending some time on the ground and on the streets.”
So why did he finally decide to come to Bangladesh? Well, it was mostly because of the importance he placed on the cricketing side of the tour. He knew that he could write stories out of this tour.
“I thought it was an important tour to be part and support given how long it had been since Australia’s previous visit for Tests. It was clear how much it meant to Bangladesh cricket for this tour to go ahead,” Collins said.
“And on the field, to my thinking, it was always going to be closer than people probably assumed back home. Largely driven by how infrequently the sides have played in all forms, really,” he added.
Collins also appreciated the seriousness placed by Bangladeshi authorities on the safety of the touring party from Australia.
England toured in 2016 under the same condition that there would be tightest security during the entire tour.
Australia had postponed their 2015 tour due to security concern but once they decided to go ahead with the series in Bangladesh, Collins wouldn’t have missed it.
“I felt a lot of appreciation from cricket people, understanding how close Bangladesh came a couple of years ago to joining Pakistan as a no-go zone for prospective tourists. Having Australia follow England to the country reinforces that these contests can be put on in a safe environment. There is no way to control every risk anywhere in the world, but the security was taken very seriously,” said Collins.
“Even from those who didn't know why I was there and assumed I was simply passing by, the initial question was always whether I had been to Bangladesh before. Invariably with a smile. It would be naive to think that there aren't some bad eggs who could have caused me trouble, but I never saw it,” he said.
Collins said he never felt unsecured although he realised he got a lot of attention, especially on the day of Eid when he roamed around Chittagong.
“I never felt unsafe. Sure, as a relatively tall, white man there are going to be eyes trained on you when walking the streets. Not least the morning of Eid, where I spent a lot of time taking in the experience. But the majority of the time people wanted to shake my hand and thank me for being there,” he said.
“At the cricket ground, there was added attention. When I went up to the terraces in Dhaka there was a lot of attention and interest from young people after selfies and the like. But I suspect that is because they thought I was a player rather than a journalist!” he added.
Those inside the security bubble were curious about what Collins was up to during the course of the tour.
“Those inside the security tent understood why I went with the approach I did and were interested in the stories I had to tell them from out and about.
“They were very grateful for the wonderful accommodation and security they were provided, and ultimately we are here to work and that is always the priority, but I'm happy with the experience I was able to have,” he said.
Collins sees the tour as a personally rewarding experience, one that he wants a repeat in the near future.
“Getting to see up close a culture very different to what I am accustomed to in my part of the world, especially during Eid. That was a very special time, and I feel privileged that local people wanted to include me in their celebrations. I'll be back,” said Collins.