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Shoaib Bashir visa – British government calls for fair treatment

The British government has called on India to “treat British citizens fairly at all times in its visa process” amid the ongoing difficulties of Shoaib Bashir, the Somerset offspinner, to secure entry to India for his first England Test tour. The intervention came as Ben Stokes, England’s captain, revealed his squad briefly considered refusing to travel until Bashir was cleared.

Stokes’ emotional reaction came in Abu Dhabi during England’s pre-tour training camp, when it emerged Bashir had not received his documents, leaving him unable to travel with the rest of the squad and England’s support staff on Sunday.

Bashir is now back in London – where his British passport was issued – after spending the start of the week in the UAE with Stuart Hooper, the ECB’s director of cricket operations. Hooper joined the squad in Hyderabad on Thursday.

“When I first found the news out in Abu Dhabi, I did say we shouldn’t fly until Bash gets his visa,” Stokes said. “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.

“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.

“Hopefully, we’re gonna see him here over the weekend. There was never a [realistic] chance that we were ever not going to travel around this but Bash knows he’s had our full support.”

The British government intervened on Thursday, reiterating its stance that India should treat British citizens “fairly” when they apply for visas. A government spokesperson told ESPNcricinfo: “The specifics of this case are a matter for Shoaib Bashir and the Indian Government.”

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 issues British citizens with Pakistani heritage experience applying for visas with the Indian High Commission in London.”

The ECB have received constant assurances by the BCCI and India High Commission that the matter will be resolved, but there has been little movement. The uncapped Bashir was subsequently ruled out of contention for the first Test, which begins on Thursday, and is still awaiting final clearance.

England hope he will be back among the squad by Sunday at the latest. If the matter is resolved in the next 24 hours, it is understood Bashir will spend a couple of days at home to decompress after the ordeal. The second Test of the five-match series begins on Friday 2, in Visakhapatnam.

“Hopefully, we are going to see him back in India over the weekend,” said Stokes. “My feelings towards it haven’t changed. It’s obviously a frustrating situation – more importantly, for him. We announced our squad mid-December. It’s now January 24 and he still doesn’t have the visa.”

England announced their squad on December 11 and the ECB submitted visa applications immediately after. Rehan Ahmed, the other player in the Test squad with Pakistani heritage, already had the necessary paperwork after being on standby during the World Cup last year.

“Hopefully we can get this sorted, we can get Bash out here and he can concentrate on the rest of this tour,” Stokes added. “It’s unfortunate he’s had to go through something like this on his first experience of being in the England team.”

Rohit Sharma, India’s captain expressed his sympathy for Bashir’s plight. “I feel for him, honestly,” he said. “Unfortunately I don’t sit in the visa office to give you more details on that, but hopefully he can make it quickly, enjoy our country and play some cricket as well.”

Additional reporting: Matt Roller

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo

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