England debated not flying until Bashir’s visa problems fixed

England captain Ben Stokes floated the idea of not flying to India until Shoaib Bashir’s visa problems were resolved but admitted there was “never a chance” of putting the first Test at risk.

Bashir, a British Muslim with Pakistani heritage, was ruled out of contention for a Test debut in Hyderabad on Thursday due to delays with his application.

The 20-year-old was ultimately forced to fly home from Abu Dhabi, where England held a pre-series training camp, after his team-mates travelled on to India.

Stokes’ instant reaction when he found out the Somerset spinner had become the latest player of Pakistani descent to experience hold-ups entering India was for the squad to remain with him in a show of solidarity.

The notion did not last long, with the tight turn around effectively meaning the game would have to be postponed, but reflected Stokes’ clear disgruntlement at the treatment of a young colleague.

“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,” he said at his pre-match press conference.

Ben Stokes
Ben Stokes was frustrated by delays (PA)

“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.

“I’m pretty devastated that Bash has had to go through this. As a leader, as a captain, when one of your team-mates is affected by something like that you do get a bit emotional.

“I know he’s back in London and a lot of people are jumping through hoops to try and get this through quicker. Hopefully we’re going to see him here over the weekend.”

India captain Rohit Sharma expressed sympathy for Bashir, who has been thrust into the spotlight and compelled to fly almost 10,000 additional miles to secure the paperwork other players received as a matter of course.

“I feel for him honestly,” said Sharma.

England v India – cinch Fourth Test – Day 1 – Kia OvalEngland v India – cinch Fourth Test – Day 1 – Kia Oval
Rohit Sharma hopes Shoaib Bashir will get to India (Adam Davy/PA)

“Unfortunately I don’t sit in the visa office to give you more details on that but hopefully he can make it quickly, enjoy our country and plays some cricket as well.

“It’s not easy for anyone, it could be one of our guys wanting to come to England and being denied.”

Lancashire’s Saqib Mahmood, whose parents hail from Pakistan, had to be withdrawn from an England Lions tour of India in 2019 after similar delays, while Australia opener Usman Khawaja was a late arrival on his country’s Test trip in 2023.

Moreover, the Pakistan Cricket Board wrote to the International Cricket Council late last year due to express concerns over waiting times for World Cup visas.

England had called for assistance from counterparts at the Board of Control for Cricket in India, with new operations manager Stuart Hooper leading negotiations in the United Arab Emirates, but were informed that Bashir needed to present his passport in person at the Indian high commission in London.

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