Sports, Cricket

Bashir flies home, British Govt calls for 'fair' treatment in visa process

Published : 24 Jan 2024 08:52 PM

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 Wednesday.

"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."

Bashir, who was born and raised in Surrey, is facing delays due to his Pakistani heritage, something with which England players with similar backgrounds have contended in the past. In 2019, Saqib Mahmood was ruled out of an England Lions tour to India, while Moeen Ali arrived late at the 2022 IPL season. Usman Khawaja, whose parents were born in Islamabad, also arrived late for Australia's tour of India last year.

The British government intervened on Wednesday, 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.