England captain Stokes 'devastated' at Bashir visa row

Britain-born Bashir, a 20-year-old of Pakistani heritage, was unable to join the rest of the squad flying to India

By AFP

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England's captain Ben Stokes during a practice session on Wednesday. — PTI
England's captain Ben Stokes during a practice session on Wednesday. — PTI

Published: Wed 24 Jan 2024, 5:41 PM

England skipper Ben Stokes said on Wednesday he was "devastated" visa issues had stopped teammate Shoaib Bashir from entering India for a five-Test series, as his counterpart said he hoped the matter would be "quickly" resolved.

Britain-born Bashir, a 20-year-old of Pakistani heritage, was unable to join the rest of the squad flying to India from a training camp in Abu Dhabi ahead of the opener in Hyderabad following a delay in his visa application.

"I'm pretty devastated that Bash has had to go through this," Stokes told reporters in Hyderabad.

"When I first found the news out in Abu Dhabi, I did say we shouldn't fly until Bash gets his visa, but that was a little bit tongue in cheek," the England captain said.

"I know it's a way bigger thing, doing that. That was probably just (my) emotions around the whole thing.

"There was never a chance that we were not going to travel around this, but Bash knows he's had our full support."

The Somerset off-spinner is back in London, but it is hoped he will be able to play in later matches in the series.

"A lot of people are jumping through hoops to try and get this through quicker," Stokes said.

"Hopefully we're going to see him here over the weekend."

India and neighbouring Pakistan are arch-rivals, both on and off the field.

A long-standing diplomatic stand-off between the two nuclear-armed nations has affected sporting ties, with India refusing to tour Pakistan or to play ICC events there.

Indian skipper Rohit Sharma said he felt for Bashir after the uncapped spinner was forced to return home.

"I feel for him honestly," Rohit told reporters in Hyderabad on the eve of the opening match starting Thursday.

"Unfortunately I don't sit in the visa office to give you more details," he added.

"But I hope he can make it here quickly and enjoy our country and play some cricket as well."

The England and Wales Cricket Board had tried to resolve the issue with their Indian counterpart, the BCCI, but the decision appeared to be out of their hands.

There was no immediate response from India's foreign ministry.

Other cricketers of Pakistani descent have previously had trouble in gaining entry to India, with batsman Usman Khawaja late in joining Australia's tour of the country last year.

The Pakistan cricket team also faced a delay in obtaining visas ahead of last year's ODI World Cup in India.

A spokeswoman for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's office said while the British government could not "speak to the process and what's happened in this individual case" they had raised the broader issue with the Indian government.

England have picked four spinners for Thursday's opener, including Test debutant Tom Hartley and batsman Joe Root, who also bowls.

Spin is expected to play a huge part on Indian pitches, but Stokes said the team was prepared to tackle any surface on offer.

"You have always got to think that the ball is going to turn in India but you don't want to go in with any preconceived ideas," he said.

"Any team which comes to India, it's always a tough challenge. You know, India are an absolute beast in their home conditions, there's no doubt about that."

India are without star batsman Virat Kohli, who withdrew from the opening two Tests due to personal reasons.

They have been unbeaten on home turf in a Test series since 2012, when Alastair Cook's England beat them 2-1.

"They play their Test cricket really well and obviously the last team to beat us here," Rohit said.

"If we don't step up or don't show up well, we are going to find ourselves in trouble."


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