Updated January 24th, 2024 at 19:36 IST

IND vs ENG: England's Pakistan-origin off-spinner Shoaib Bashir granted visa to India

England's Pakistan-origin off-spinner Shoaib Bashir was on Wednesday granted visa to play in the five-match Test series against India, ending a "frustrating" wait for the visiting side whose captain Ben Stokes felt "devastated" by the delay.

England spinner Shoaib Bashir | Image:Somerset/Instagram
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England's Pakistan-origin off-spinner Shoaib Bashir was on Wednesday granted visa to play in the five-match Test series against India, ending a "frustrating" wait for the visiting side whose captain Ben Stokes felt "devastated" by the delay "Shoaib Bashir has now received his visa, and is due to travel to join up with the team in India this weekend. We're glad the situation has now been resolved," the England and Wales Cricket Board posted on its X (formerly Twitter) page on the eve of the first Test here.

The 20-year-old rookie, who plays for Somerset in the English county, was forced to head back to England from the team's Abu Dhabi training base after a prolonged wait for visa. His family is of Pakistani heritage but Bashir was born in Surrey.

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The delay snowballed into a major controversy with a British government spokesperson demanding "fair" treatment for the youngster and Stokes hardly mincing words in expressing his outrage.

Bashir, who is a shock inclusion in the squad with a mediocre 10 wickets from just six first-class games, was never in contention for a place in the squad for the opening Test.

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"When I first found the news out in Abu Dhabi, I did say we shouldn't fly until Bash gets his visa," Stokes said in the pre-match press conference on Wednesday.

"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," he added.

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An unnamed British government spokesperson told 'ESPNcricinfo that it wasn't the first time that citizens of Pakistani heritage faced a delay in securing Indian visas.

"The specifics of this case are a matter for Shoaib Bashir and the Indian Government. But we absolutely expect India to treat British citizens fairly at all times in its visa process.

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"We have previously raised the issues British citizens with Pakistani heritage experience applying for visas with the Indian High Commission in London," he said.

India have, so far, not commented on the matter.

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Stokes hoped that Bashir would be able to join the squad by the end of this week. "...hopefully, we're going to see him back in India over the weekend. The feelings we have towards it (the visa episode) hasn't changed. It's obviously a frustrating situation," Stokes said.

"As a leader, as a captain, when one of your teammates 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...Bash knows he's had our full support.

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India captain Rohit Sharma also offered his view on the matter in his pre-match press conference here and hoped that Bashir would be seen in action soon.

"I feel for him. He is coming, I think, for the first time. Unfortunately I don't sit in visa office to make the decision. Hopefully he will make it here soon," Rohit said.

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Australian opener Usman Khawaja, who is of Pakistani origin as well, faced a similar situation when he arrived late for the Test series in India last year.

Players of Pakistani heritage, who have a Pakistani visa, have to apply at the Indian High Commission of their respective countries to be able to travel to India.

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While Bashir is expected to get the stamp of approval from Indian High Commission in London, the turn of events left Stokes a tad irked.

"He's not the first cricketer to go through this. I have played with a lot of people who have had the same issues," Stokes said.

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Another player of Pakistani origin, Saqib Mahmood, couldn't travel to India in 2019 for an 'A' series.

England and Wales Cricket Board's MD (Operations) Stuart Hooper was in the UAE to speed up the procedure for Bashir but it didn't get the desired result.

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"I find it frustrating that we have picked a player and he's not with us because of visa issues. It's a frustrating situation to be in but a lot of people have been trying to get it through," Stokes reiterated. PTI UNG KHS PM PM PM

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Published January 24th, 2024 at 19:36 IST