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Shoaib Bashir receives India visa, will join Test squad over weekend

Stokes reveals England briefly considered refusing to travel to India without Bashir

Vithushan Ehantharajah
Vithushan Ehantharajah
Updated on 24-Jan-2024
Shoaib Bashir has received his India visa and will travel out to join England's Test squad in Hyderabad over the weekend, following a protracted saga in which the uncapped spinner had been required to return to the UK from the UAE to finalise the process, while the rest of his team-mates travelled to India ahead of Thursday's first Test.
Bashir, who was born and raised in Surrey, had been facing delays due to his Pakistani heritage, something with which England players with similar backgrounds have contended in the past. In 2019, Saqib Mahmood was ruled out of an England Lions tour to India, while Moeen Ali arrived late at the 2022 IPL season. Usman Khawaja, whose parents were born in Islamabad, also arrived late for Australia's tour of India last year.
After initially staying back in the UAE in the company of Stuart Hooper, the ECB's director of cricket operations, Bashir flew back to London - where his passport was issued - to resolve the issue at the India High Commission. Hooper joined the squad in Hyderabad on Wednesday.
"Shoaib Bashir has now received his visa, and is due to travel to join up with the team in India this weekend," an ECB spokesman said. "We're glad the situation has now been resolved."
The saga attracted the attention of the British government, which called on India to "treat British citizens fairly at all times in its visa process", while Ben Stokes, England's captain, revealed his squad had briefly considered refusing to travel until Bashir was cleared.
Stokes' emotional reaction came in Abu Dhabi during England's pre-tour training camp, when it emerged Bashir had not received his documents, leaving him unable to travel with the rest of the squad and England's support staff on Sunday.
"When I first found the news out in Abu Dhabi, I did say we shouldn't fly until Bash gets his visa," Stokes said. "But that was a little bit tongue in cheek. I know it's a way bigger thing than doing that. That was probably just emotions around the whole thing. 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 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 gonna see him here over the weekend. There was never a [realistic] chance that we were ever not going to travel around this but Bash knows he's had our full support."
The British government intervened on Wednesday, reiterating its stance that India should treat British citizens "fairly" when they apply for visas. A government spokesperson told ESPNcricinfo: "The specifics of this case are a matter for Shoaib Bashir and the Indian Government."
The spokesperson added: "But we absolutely expect India to treat British citizens fairly at all times in its visa process. We have previously raised the issues British citizens with Pakistani heritage experience applying for visas with the Indian High Commission in London."
The ECB had received constant assurances from the BCCI and India High Commission that the matter would be resolved, but the delay meant that Bashir was ruled out of contention for the first Test - for which England have selected three specialist spinners including another uncapped tourist in Tom Hartley.
With the matter now resolved, it is understood that Bashir will spend a couple of days at home to decompress after the ordeal. The second Test of the five-match series begins on Friday 2, in Visakhapatnam.
"Hopefully, we are going to see him back in India over the weekend," said Stokes. "My feelings towards it haven't changed. It's obviously a frustrating situation - more importantly, for him. We announced our squad mid-December. It's now January 24 and he still doesn't have the visa."
England announced their squad on December 11 and the ECB submitted visa applications immediately after. Rehan Ahmed, the other player in the Test squad with Pakistani heritage, already had the necessary paperwork after being on standby during the World Cup last year.
"Hopefully we can get this sorted, we can get Bash out here and he can concentrate on the rest of this tour," Stokes added. "It's unfortunate he's had to go through something like this on his first experience of being in the England team."
Rohit Sharma, India's captain expressed his sympathy for Bashir's plight. "I feel for him, honestly,'' he said. "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 play some cricket as well."
Additional reporting: Matt Roller. This story was updated at 13.15pm GMT following the news of Bashir's visa

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo