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Ben Stokes ‘frustrated’ as Shoaib Bashir returns to UK to resolve visa delay

Ben Stokes says he is “frustrated” by the ongoing delay with Shoaib Bashir‘s visa application for England’s tour of India, which has forced the Somerset offspinner to return to the UK, subsequently ruling him out of the first Test.

England arrived in India on Sunday without Bashir, who remained in Abu Dhabi where the squad had been training ahead of the series, along with Stuart Hooper, the ECB’s director of cricket operations. It was initially hoped he would join his teammates in Hyderabad on Tuesday. But after further delays, the 20-year-old has returned home in the hope of facilitating the process.

Bashir was born in Surrey and has a British passport. But as someone of Pakistani heritage, he is experiencing all-too familiar issues entering India because of the deep-rooted unrest between the neighbouring countries.

In the last year alone, Usman Khawaja, who was born in Islamabad, also arrived late for Australia’s tour at the start of 2023 due to a similar visa delay. Pakistan’s visas for the recent ODI World Cup were only issued a day before they were scheduled to fly out, forcing them to cancel a pre-season training camp in Dubai.
The application for Bashir, along with the rest of the players and support staff, was submitted soon after the squad was named on December 11. Rehan Ahmed, the other England player on this tour with a similar background, already possessed the necessary paperwork having been on standby for the World Cup.

There is optimism that Bashir will be in situ by the weekend. But Stokes remains irked at the ordeal he has been put through, at the start of his maiden England tour.

“Especially as captain I find it particularly frustrating,” Stokes said.

“We announced that 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.

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

Bashir earned selection through an impressive showing on an England Lions training camp in November. It was there he showcased his wares as a six-foot-four offspinner who could impart a healthy amount of revolutions on the ball, forcing selectors to look beyond the raw numbers of just 10 wickets at an average of 67 from six first-class matches.

He was said to have taken the step-up to the Test squad well, bowling impressively throughout the 10-day training camp in the UAE. With a spinning pitch in the offing for the series opener, he would have been under consideration for a debut this week. A lack of visa now makes that prospect redundant, even if he was able to arrive on Wednesday, the day before the start of the Test.

“Him not being able to be here rules him out,” Stokes confirmed on Tuesday. “We didn’t come here with preconceived ideas about what we will do with the first team. In India you do like to have a good look at the pitch to see how it might play. With Bash unfortunately not able to be here, it rules him out of this game.”

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