India vs England: Shoaib Bashir returns to UK to resolve visa issues

  • By Stephan Shemilt
  • Chief cricket writer in Hyderabad

image source, Getty Images

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Somerset's Shoaib Bashir was called up by England for the first time despite only playing six first-class matches

Spinner Shoaib Bashir has returned to the UK to clear the visa delay preventing him from joining the England squad in India.

The 20-year-old, who is of Pakistani descent and does not play an international match, was initially left behind in Abu Dhabi as the rest of the team traveled on Sunday.

The Somerset off-spinner is yet to receive the visa and will not be in India until the weekend at the earliest.

Bashir will miss the first Test in Hyderabad starting on Thursday.

“I find it particularly frustrating,” said England captain Ben Stokes. “We announced the squad in mid-December and now Bash no longer has a visa to come here.”

“I’m more frustrated for him. I didn't want him to experience what it was like to be in the England Test team for the first time in a situation like that. I feel for him.”

India has not played bilateral cricket against Pakistan since 2013 due to political tensions between the two countries.

Bashir, who was surprisingly included in England's Test squad after playing just six first-class matches, is not the first cricketer with links to Pakistan to struggle to gain entry to India.

Australian opener Usman Khawaja, who was born in Pakistan, faced a Test tour delay last year, while the entire Pakistan squad for last year's World Cup in India faced similar delays.

BBC Test Match Special commentator Aatif Nawaz, whose family is from Pakistan, also faced delays in applying for a World Cup visa and ultimately did not travel to the tournament.

Bashir's fellow England spinner Rehan Ahmed is also of Pakistani origin but has retained a visa from last year as he was a reserve player for the World Cup team.

“He is not the first cricketer to go through this. I played with a lot of people who had the same problems,” Stokes added.

“I find it frustrating that we have selected a player and he is not with us due to visa issues. Especially for a young guy. I’m devastated for him.”

“It's a frustrating situation, but a lot of people have tried to get through it. It’s unfortunate and I’m very frustrated for him.”

A spokesman for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the government expects British citizens to be treated fairly in visa procedures in India.

“I cannot go into the details of this case. But more broadly, we have raised issues of this nature before at the High Commission. We have made it clear that we expect India to treat British citizens fairly at all times in its visa processes,” the spokesperson said.

“We have previously raised the issues faced by British citizens of Pakistani descent. We have raised the issues regarding their experience in applying for visas with the Indian High Commissioner in London.”

In Bashir's absence, England are considering using all three top players at their disposal on seemingly dry ground in Hyderabad.

The fit-again Jack Leach could be supported by star player Ahmed and Lancashire left-back Tom Hartley.

If England decide they need two seamers, Leach will be accompanied by one of Hartley and Ahmed, probably alongside pace bowlers James Anderson and Mark Wood.

Stokes has confirmed that Ben Foakes will return behind the stumps with Jonny Bairstow playing as specialist batsman after Harry Brook left the tour for personal reasons.