Stokes reveals that England briefly considered refusing to travel to India without Bashir
Shoaib Bashir has been granted an India visa and will travel to join the England Test squad in Hyderabad over the weekend, after a protracted saga in which the off-spinner was asked to return to the UK from the UAE to finalize the process, while the rest of his teammates traveled to… India ahead of the first Test on Thursday.
Bashir, who was born and raised in Surrey, faced delays due to his Pakistani heritage, something England players with similar backgrounds have faced in the past. In 2019, Saqib Mahmood was left out of England Lions' tour to India, while Moeen Ali arrived late in the 2022 IPL season. Usman Khawaja, whose parents were born in Islamabad, also arrived late for Australia's tour of India last year.
After initially remaining in the UAE in the company of Stuart Hooper, the ECB's director of cricket operations, Bashir returned to London – where his passport had been issued – to resolve the issue at the Indian High Commission. Hooper joined the team in Hyderabad on Wednesday.
An ECB spokesperson said: “Shoaib Bashir has now received his visa and is scheduled to travel to join the team in India this weekend.” “We are glad the situation has now been resolved.”
The story caught the attention of the British government, which called on India to “treat British citizens fairly at all times during the visa process”, while Ben Stokes, the England captain, revealed that his team briefly considered refusing to travel until Bashir was cleared.
Stokes' emotional reaction came in Abu Dhabi during the training camp ahead of the England tour, when it emerged that Bashir had not received his documents, leaving him unable to travel with the rest of the squad and England support staff on Sunday.
“When I first heard the news in Abu Dhabi, I said we shouldn’t fly until Bash got his visa,” Stokes said. “But that was a bit sarcastic. I know it's a lot bigger than doing that. Maybe it's just my feelings about the whole thing. I was just so sad that Bash had to go through that.”
“As a leader, as a leader, when one of your teammates is affected by something like this, you get a bit emotional. I know he's back in London and a lot of people are jumping through hoops to try to get through this. Hurry.”
“Hopefully we'll see him here over the weekend. There's been absolutely nothing [realistic] “We probably won't travel about this at all, but Bash knows he has our full support.”
The British government intervened on Wednesday, reiterating its position that India should treat British citizens “fairly” when they apply for visas. “The details of this case are a matter for Shoaib Bashir and the Indian government,” a government spokesperson told ESPNcricinfo.
“But we certainly expect India to treat British citizens fairly at all times in the visa process. We have previously raised the issues of British citizens with experience of Pakistani heritage applying for visas with the Indian High Commission in London,” the spokesperson added.
The ECB had received consistent assurances from the BCCI and the High Commission of India that the matter would be resolved, but the delay meant Bashir was excluded from contention for the first Test – for which England selected three specialist spinners including another tourist who had never played in the tournament. Tom. Hartley.
With the matter now resolved, it is understood that Bashir will spend a few days at home to decompress after the ordeal. The second Test of the five-match series begins on Friday 2 in Visakhapatnam.
“We hope to see him back in India over the weekend,” Stokes said. “My feelings about it haven't changed. It's obviously a frustrating situation – more importantly for him. We announced our team in mid-December. It's now January 24 and he still doesn't have the visa.”
England announced its squad on 11 December, and the ECB submitted its visa applications immediately afterwards. Rehan Ahmed, the other player in the Test squad with Pakistani origins, already had the necessary papers in place after being on standby during last year's World Cup.
“Hopefully we can sort this out and we can get Bash out here and he can focus on the rest of this tour,” Stokes added. “It's unfortunate that he had to go through something like this on his first England experience.”
Rohit Sharma, India's captain, expressed his sympathy for Bashir's plight. “Honestly, I have feelings for him. Unfortunately, I'm not sitting in the visa office to give you more details about that, but I hope he can make it happen quickly, enjoy our country and play some cricket as well,” he said. “
Additional reports: Matt Roller. This story was updated at 13.15pm GMT following news of Bashir's visa
Vithushan Ihantaraja is Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo
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