India v England: Shoaib Bashir returns to UK to resolve visa issues

Somerset’s Shoaib Bashir has been called up by England for the first time despite playing only six first-class matches

Spinner Shoaib Bashir has returned to the UK in order to sort the visa delay which is preventing him from joining the England squad in India.

The uncapped 20-year-old, who is of Pakistani descent, was initially left in Abu Dhabi when the rest of the team travelled on Sunday.

The Somerset off-spinner is still to receive the visa and will not be in India until at least the weekend.

Bashir will miss the first Test in Hyderabad, beginning on Thursday.

“I find it particularly frustrating,” said England captain Ben Stokes. “We announced the squad in mid-December, and now Bash finds himself without a visa to get here.

“I am more frustrated for him. I didn’t want this type of situation to be his first experience of what it’s like to be in the England Test team. I feel for him.”

India have not played any bilateral cricket against Pakistan since 2013 because of political tensions between the two countries.

Bashir, a surprise inclusion in the England Test squad after playing only six first-class matches, is not the first cricketer with links to Pakistan to struggle to gain access to India.

Australia opener Usman Khawaja, who was born in Pakistan, had his arrival for a Test tour last year delayed, while the entire Pakistan squad for last year’s World Cup in India faced similar delays.

BBC Test Match Special commentator Aatif Nawaz, whose family are from Pakistan, also faced delays in receiving a visa for the World Cup and ultimately did not travel to the tournament.

Bashir’s fellow England spinner, Rehan Ahmed, is also of Pakistani origin, but has a visa held over from last year as he acted as reserve for the World Cup squad.

“He’s not the first cricketer to go through this, I have played with a lot of people who have had the same issues,” added Stokes.

“I find it frustrating that we have picked a player and he’s not with us because of visa issues. Especially for a young lad. I’m devastated for him.

“It’s a frustrating situation to be in, but a lot of people have been trying to get it through. It’s unfortunate and I’m very frustrated for him.”

A spokesperson for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the government expects British citizens to be treated fairly by India’s visa processes.

“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,” said the spokesperson.

“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.”

In Bashir’s absence, England are considering picking all three of the frontline spinners available to them on what looks to be a dry surface in Hyderabad.

Fit-again Jack Leach could be joined by leg-spinner Ahmed and uncapped Lancashire left-armer Tom Hartley.

If England decide they need two seamers, then Leach will be joined by one of Hartley and Ahmed, probably alongside pace bowlers James Anderson and Mark Wood.

Stokes has confirmed that Ben Foakes will return behind the stumps, with Jonny Bairstow playing as a specialist batter after Harry Brook left the tour for personal reasons.

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