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

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

  • Written by Stefan Schimmelt
  • Hyderabad's leading cricket writer

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Somerset's Shoaib Bashir has been called up to the England squad for the first time despite having played just six first-class matches.

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

The 20-year-old, who is of Pakistani origin, was initially left behind in Abu Dhabi when the rest of the squad traveled on Sunday.

The Somerset off-spinner is still receiving his visa and will not be in India until at least the weekend.

Al-Bashir will miss the first test in Hyderabad, starting on Thursday.

“I find it particularly frustrating,” England captain Ben Stokes said. “We announced the team in mid-December, and now Bash finds himself without a visa to get here.

“I feel more frustrated for him. I didn't want this kind of situation to be his first experience of what it's like to be in the England Test team. I feel for him.”

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

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

Australia's opener Usman Khawaja, who was born in Pakistan, had a delayed arrival on a Test tour last year, while the entire Pakistani team participating in last year's World Cup in India faced similar delays.

BBC Test match special commentator Atif Nawaz, whose family is from Pakistan, also faced delays in obtaining a visa for the World Cup and ultimately did not travel to the tournament.

Bashir's England team-mate Rehan Ahmed is also of Pakistani origin, but has a deferred visa from last year where he served as a reserve for the World Cup squad.

“He's not the first cricketer to go through this, I've played with a lot of people who have the same issues,” 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 player. I am devastated for him.

“It's a frustrating situation, but a lot of people are trying to get through it. It's unfortunate and I'm very disappointed for him.”

A spokesman for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the government expects British citizens to be treated fairly through Indian visa processes.

“I cannot speak to the specifics of this case. But more broadly, we have previously raised issues of this nature with the High Commission. We have been clear that we expect India to treat British citizens fairly at all times in visa processes.” The spokesperson said.

“We have previously raised issues faced by British nationals of Pakistani origin. We have raised issues relating to their experience applying for visas with the Indian High Commissioner in London.”

In Bashir's absence, England are considering their three available players on what looks to be a dry surface in Hyderabad.

The fit-again Jack Leach could be joined by leg-spinner Ahmed and Lancashire left-arm off-spinner Tom Hartley.

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

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

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