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December 15, 2007
Although heavy and unseasonable rains have hampered the groundsmen's preparations, the odd damp patch on the outfield is rather trivial to what the locals had to endure four years ago when the whole area was devastated by the tsunami.
"When we came down on the bus yesterday the mood changed the further we travelled. There was a fairly sombre atmosphere as we got nearer," Collingwood told Sportinglife. "The events that happened here three years ago means you have to put everything into perspective and give them a lot of credit for what they've done to the ground.
"We are just going to have to get on with it. It is going to be a very sad occasion in many ways but we have seen how the Sri Lankan people have reacted to such a disaster. They are trying to rebuild their lives and we will try to put some smiles back on their faces.
"Hopefully with the sunshine out - there are a few more days yet until the Test match - the conditions out on the park will be fine."
It is a far cry from 2003 when, following injury to his captain, Nasser Hussain, Collingwood made his Test debut.
"Nasser obviously went down with a bit of a virus at the time," Collingwood said. "I remember bowling in the nets across here, trying to bowl Chaminda Vaas-type inswingers from around the wicket at the boys, trying to prepare them as I usually did. "All of a sudden I got the call very late on. It was obviously a very proud moment and it is a place which always sticks in my memories. I love the place.
"We did very well that final day, I remember Hoggy [Matthew Hoggard] playing and missing a few times late on as the darkness was coming in and we managed to save it.
"Obviously this time we will have to go out there, try to take 20 wickets and win the game." Collingwood, Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen and his current captain, Michael Vaughan, all spent time coaching 22 youngsters at an indoor academy today as part of the United Nations World Food Programme and their partnership with the ECB.
"We were on an A tour here, we played all our games in Colombo but we had a day here two-and-a-half months afterwards to see what had gone on and if we could help out in any way," Cook said. "At the time seeing all the houses built so soon afterwards was an amazing experience and very humbling.
"Sometimes you get stuck in a cricket world and all you think about is batting, your team and all that kind of thing.
"So to come here both today, and two-and-a-half years ago, it takes you out of the bubble and puts everything into perspective."
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