England’s preparations for the first Test against India in Hyderabad were marred by the visa issues faced by uncapped spinner Shoaib Bashir, who was effectively ruled out of the match due to his inability to join the squad in India. The 20-year-old, of Pakistani heritage, had to return home to address the visa problem, leaving both captains, Ben Stokes and Rohit Sharma, expressing their frustrations.
England skipper Ben Stokes expressed his disappointment, stating that he felt bad for Bashir and was frustrated by the situation. Meanwhile, India captain Rohit Sharma hoped for a swift resolution to Bashir’s visa issues. The matter also prompted a response from a spokesperson for UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who emphasized the expectation that British citizens, including those with Pakistani heritage, be treated fairly by India’s visa processes.
As per the quotes in BBC, a spokesperson said, “I can’t speak to the specifics of this case. But more broadly we have previously raised issues of this kind with the High Commission. We have been clear that we expect India to treat British citizens fairly at all times in its visa processes. We have previously raised the issues British citizens with Pakistani heritage have experienced. We’ve raised the issues about their experience of applying for visas with the Indian High Commissioner in London.”
The visa row came as Bashir, who made his debut for Somerset last year, was set to play a crucial role in England’s spin-bowling options. The 6ft 4in spinner had caught the selectors’ attention during England’s training camp in UAE. Bashir’s notable performances included playing a key role in Somerset’s T20 Blast victory last year.
If the British Muslim does not do his paper work properly he will not be allowed in.
Bharat is a Hindu nation with no exception for Muslims.
— The Indian Warrior🇮🇳 (@theindiawarrior) January 24, 2024
Despite Bashir’s absence, England announced their playing XI for the first Test, opting for a combination that included four spinners and one fast bowler, Mark Wood. Notably, veteran pacer James Anderson was left out, and spinner Tom Hartley was set to make his debut.
The return of Ollie Pope, Ben Foakes, Rehan Ahmed, and Jack Leach added depth to the squad. The visa issue highlighted broader concerns about the experiences of British citizens with Pakistani heritage applying for visas to India, prompting the UK government to emphasize the expectation of fair treatment for its citizens in such processes.
The episode underscored the challenges faced by cricket teams in navigating travel logistics and visa arrangements, impacting player availability for international matches.
England XI: Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes (capt), Ben Foakes, Rehan Ahmed, Tom Hartley, Mark Wood, Jack Leach