England's Bashir out of India series opener due to visa row

Surrey-born Bashir, a 20-year-old Muslim of Pakistani heritage, was unable to join the rest of the England Test squad in India

By AFP

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Uncapped spinner Shoaib Bashir. — X
Uncapped spinner Shoaib Bashir. — X

Published: Wed 24 Jan 2024, 12:28 AM

Uncapped spinner Shoaib Bashir was effectively ruled out of the first Test of England's tour of India on Tuesday after he was forced to return home to resolve visa issues.

Surrey-born Bashir, a 20-year-old Muslim 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 series opener in Hyderabad starting Thursday following a delay with his visa application.

The England and Wales Cricket Board had hoped they could count on assistance from their counterparts at the Board of Control for Cricket in India in resolving the issue.

But travelling British media in India reported on Tuesday that Bashir had been told he needed to return to London with his passport to receive the correct paperwork at the Indian High Commission.

It was unlikely that Bashir would have made his Test debut on Thursday but the frustration for England is that the decision has been taken out of their hands.

England now hope the Somerset off-spinner will return to India over the weekend, but dejected captain Ben Stokes said: "I didn't want this type of situation to be his first experience of what it's like to be in the England Test team. Especially for a young lad, I'm devastated for him.

"As captain I find it particularly frustrating. We announced the squad in mid-December and now Bash finds himself without a visa to get here...It's unfortunate and I'm very frustrated for him. With Bash unfortunately not able to be here, it rules him out of this game."

The Pakistan Cricket Board wrote to the International Cricket Council, the sport's global governing body, complaining about delays in the squad's visas for the recent World Cup in India, with Pakistani journalists similarly affected in what appeared to be another example of the tense diplomatic stand-off between the two countries.

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

A Downing Street spokeswoman 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.

"Our position is that British citizens should be treated fairly when going through this process."

England head coach Brendon McCullum said earlier this week he hoped Bashir would arrive in time for the first match of a five-Test series.

"We're confident on the back of the help from the BCCI and the Indian government that it will sort itself out pretty quickly," he said.

But the former New Zealand captain's optimism was misplaced.

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