Stokes insists leaving Ahmed out of third Test was never considered

Rehan Ahmed’s positive reaction to his visa issue meant that axing him for the third Test against India was never considered, according to England captain Ben Stokes.

Ahmed was retained by England, with Mark Wood in for Shoaib Bashir the only change, after a tense 48 hours in which the teenage leg-spinner was initially denied entry upon his return to India on Monday.

The 19-year-old was given a two-day emergency visa after the expiry of his single entrance visa following England’s mid-series break in Abu Dhabi, but the situation has now been fully resolved.

Stokes was uninterested at who was to blame for the administrative error and instead hailed Ahmed, who will be one of two specialist spinners with Tom Hartley in Rajkot as the series resumes on Thursday.

“It was always one of those situations for an individual where having to wait for that, it’s always an anxious period,” Stokes said. “But we don’t have to worry about any more of those issues.

“I don’t know how we ended up being in that situation but when it came up, we were straight on to doing what we needed to do to get Rehan in rather than wasting time trying to find out whose fault it was.

“The great thing about youth is they just take everything in their stride. He handled a situation that could have affected quite a lot of people in a different way very, very well for such a young kid.

“There was no thoughts around not playing him this week. The Test matches he’s played so far, he’s done very, very well and everything we’ve asked of him he’s gone out and tried to deliver.”

England have rebalanced their side by including Wood alongside James Anderson, the first time the tourists have gone with two fast bowlers in a series that is delicately poised at one win apiece.

That might necessitate a couple of role changes from last time out in Visakhapatnam – a 106-run defeat – where Ahmed was not introduced in the attack until the 60th over in India’s first innings.

“The only thing I’ll say to Rehan is whenever you’ve got the ball think about taking a wicket every ball and don’t worry about too much else,” Stokes, who will play his 100th Test this week, said.

Stokes was coy on whether the two quicks would open the bowling and revealed the thinking in selection boiled down to how the Rajkot pitch played in England’s high-scoring draw against India in 2016.

Shoaib Bashir has been left out for the third Test
Shoaib Bashir has been left out for the third Test (Manish Swarup/AP)

That means Bashir dropping out after making his Test debut in Visakhapatnam – where the 20-year-old off-spinner took four wickets, including India captain Rohit Sharma, in just his seventh first-class match.

“Bringing in an extra seamer this week is the option we’ve gone with because we think it’s going to give us the best chance of winning this week,” Stokes said.

“Bash performed incredibly well in his first game for England; he’ll just take it in his stride.

Jasprit BumrahJasprit Bumrah
Jasprit Bumrah claimed nine wickets in the second Test (Manish Swarup/AP)

“He’s a young lad and would want to play every game possible but I’ve got no doubt there will be more opportunities for him going forward in this series.”

England were undone by Jasprit Bumrah’s nine-wicket haul in the last meeting although Stokes says they have made no concerted attempt to combat the India paceman.

“Jasprit Bumrah is an unbelievable bowler,” Stokes added. “He’s proven that for a very long time and has performed really well in the two games.

“I think everyone has got their own way of not trying to deal with Bumrah but we do have to score runs off him as well and that’s what we’ll try to do.

“We’ve all got our own processes against every single bowler and there’s no team way of playing anyone. But as we always try to do we’ll be trying to keep the focus around us.”

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