Stokes reveals England briefly considered refusing to travel to India without Bashir
Vithushan Ehantharajah24. January 2024 • Updated 1 hour ago
Shoaib Bashir has flown home after delays in getting his visa Harry Trump/Getty Images
Shoaib Bashir has received his India visa and will travel to join the England Test team in Hyderabad at the weekend, following the conclusion of a protracted saga that saw the uncapped player return to the UK from the United Arab Emirates to complete the process while the rest of his teammates traveled to India ahead of the first Test on Thursday.
Bashir, who was born and raised in Surrey, has faced delays due to his Pakistani heritage, something English players of similar backgrounds have faced in the past. In 2019, Saqib Mahmood was left out of an England Lions tour to India, while Moeen Ali arrived late in the 2022 IPL season. Usman Khawaja, whose parents were born in Islamabad, was also late for Australia's tour of India last year.
After initially staying in the UAE accompanied by Stuart Hooper, the ECB's director of cricket operations, Bashir flew back to London – where his passport was issued – to raise the issue with the Indian High Commission. Hooper joined the squad in Hyderabad on Wednesday.
“Shoaib Bashir has now received his visa and will travel to India this weekend to join the team,” an ECB spokesman said. “We are glad that the situation has now been clarified.”
The saga caught the attention of the British government, which called on India to “treat British citizens fairly at all times in the visa process”, while Ben Stokes, England captain, revealed that his team had briefly considered refusing to travel until Bashir was cleared became.
Stokes' emotional reaction came in Abu Dhabi during England's pre-tour training camp when it emerged that Bashir had not received his documents, meaning he was unable to travel with the rest of the squad and England support staff on Sunday.
“When I first heard the news in Abu Dhabi, I said we shouldn't fly until Bash gets his visa,” Stokes said. “But that was a bit ironic. I know it's a much bigger deal than doing that. It was probably just emotions surrounding the whole thing. I’m pretty devastated that Bash had to go through this.”
“As a leader, as a captain, when one of your teammates is affected by something like that, you get a little bit emotional. I know he's back in London and a lot of people are trying hard to get things through faster.
“Hopefully we’ll see him here at the weekend. There never was one.” [realistic] There’s a chance we would never get around this, but Bash knows he had our full support.”
The British government intervened on Wednesday and reiterated its stance that India should treat British citizens “fairly” when applying for visas. A government spokesman told ESPNcricinfo: “The details of this case are a matter for Shoaib Bashir and the Government of India.”
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 difficulties faced by British citizens of Pakistani origin in applying for a visa at the Indian High Commission in London.”
The ECB had received constant assurances from the BCCI and the Indian High Commission that the matter would be sorted out, but the delay meant Bashir was ruled out for the first Test – for which England have selected three specialist spinners, including another uncapped tourist , Tom Hartley.
Now that the matter has been resolved, Bashir is expected to spend a few days at home to relax after the ordeal. The second Test of the five-match series begins on Friday 2nd in Visakhapatnam.
“It's unfortunate that he had to go through something like this,” Stokes told AFP
“Hopefully we’ll see him back in India at the weekend,” Stokes said. “My attitude towards it hasn’t changed. It's obviously a frustrating situation – especially for him. We announced our squad in mid-December. It’s now January 24th and he still doesn’t have a visa.”
England announced their squad on December 11 and the ECB submitted visa applications immediately afterwards. Rehan Ahmed, the other player in the Test team with Pakistani heritage, already had the necessary papers after being on standby during the World Cup last year.
“Hopefully we can get this under control, we can get Bash out of here and he can concentrate on the rest of this tour,” Stokes added. “It’s unfortunate that he had to go through something like this on his first appearance for the England national team.”
Rohit Sharma, India's captain, expressed his condolences for Bashir's plight. “Honestly, I feel for him,” he said. “Unfortunately I'm not in the visa office to give you more details about this, but hopefully he gets there quickly, enjoys our country and plays some cricket too.”
Additional reporting: Matt Roller. This story was updated at 1:15pm GMT following news of Bashir's visa
Vithushan Ehantharajah is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo