England's Shoaib Bashir gets India visa, says cricket board

The Somerset off-spinner had to fly back to London from Abu Dhabi to finish the required paperwork for his entry to India

England's Shoaib Bashir gets India visa, says cricket board PHOTO: AFP

England spinner Shoaib Bashir has received his visa for India and will join the touring team this weekend, the country's cricket board said on Wednesday.

Britain-born Bashir, a 20-year-old Muslim of Pakistani heritage, was unable to join the rest of the squad flying to India from a training camp in Abu Dhabi and remained unvailable for the first of the five Tests starting Thursday.

The Somerset off-spinner had to fly back to London from Abu Dhabi to finish the required paperwork for his entry to India.

"Shoaib Bashir has now received his visa, and is due to travel to join up with the team in India this weekend," the England and Wales Cricket Board said in a statement. "We're glad the situation has now been resolved."

According to reports, the UK government intervened to fast-track the matter.

A government spokesperson told ESPNcricinfo: "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."

England captain Ben Stokes, in a press conference on the eve of the opener, said he was "devastated" at the treatment handed out to the young spinner.

"When I first found the news out in Abu Dhabi, I did say we shouldn't fly until Bash gets his visa, but that was a little bit tongue in cheek," the England captain said.

"I know it's a way bigger thing, doing that. That was probably just (my) emotions around the whole thing.

"There was never a chance that we were not going to travel around this, but Bash knows he's had our full support."

Other cricketers of Pakistani descent have previously had trouble in gaining entry to India, with batsman Usman Khawaja late in joining Australia's tour of the country last year.

The Pakistan cricket team also faced a delay in obtaining visas ahead of last year's ODI World Cup in India.

India and neighbouring Pakistan are arch-rivals, both on and off the field.

A long-standing diplomatic stand-off between the two nuclear-armed nations has affected sporting ties, with India refusing to tour Pakistan or to play ICC events there.

- 'Feel for him' -

Indian skipper Rohit Sharma said he felt for Bashir after the uncapped spinner was forced to return home.

"I feel for him honestly," Rohit told reporters in Hyderabad on the eve of the opening match starting Thursday.

"Unfortunately I don't sit in the visa office to give you more details," he added.

"But I hope he can make it here quickly and enjoy our country and play some cricket as well."

Earlier a spokeswoman for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's office said while the British government could not "speak to the process and what's happened in this individual case" they had raised the broader issue with the Indian government.

- 'Absolute beast' -

In spite of Bashir's absence England have still picked four spinners for Thursday's opener, including Test debutant Tom Hartley and occasional off-spinner Joe Root.

Spin is expected to play a huge part on Indian pitches, but Stokes said the team was prepared to tackle any surface on offer.

"You have always got to think that the ball is going to turn in India but you don't want to go in with any preconceived ideas," he said.

"Any team which comes to India, it's always a tough challenge. You know, India are an absolute beast in their home conditions, there's no doubt about that."

India are without star batsman Virat Kohli, who withdrew from the opening two Tests due to personal reasons.