India v England: Ben Stokes says there was ‘never a chance’ of boycott over Shoaib Bashir visa

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

Ben Stokes says there was “never a chance” England would boycott the first Test against India because of the delay with Shoaib Bashir’s visa.

The uncapped Somerset spinner, who is of Pakistani heritage, is out of contention for the Test, which starts on Thursday, because of the issue.

Bashir has now been issued with a visa, Indian authorities confirmed on Wednesday.

England captain Stokes said the 20-year-old had the team’s “full support”.

Stokes admitted he had floated the idea of a boycott among the team, but said it was “tongue in cheek”.

“As a leader, as a captain, when one of your team-mates is affected by something like that you do get a bit emotional,” Stokes said.

Bashir, who was initially left in Abu Dhabi when the rest of the team travelled to India on Sunday, returned to the UK in order to sort the visa delay.

“There are rules and regulations governing the issuance of an Indian visa. The same were being applied in this case,” India’s foreign office said on Wednesday.

Stokes said: “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.

“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 ever not going to travel around this, but Bash knows he’s had our full support.”

There are long-running political tensions between India and Pakistan and last year Australia opener Usman Khawaja, who was born in Pakistan, had his arrival for a Test tour delayed, while the entire Pakistan squad for last year’s World Cup in India faced similar delays.

India captain Rohit Sharma said he hoped the issue with Bashir’s visa would be resolved quickly so the Somerset off-spinner could “enjoy our country and plays some cricket as well”.

“It’s not easy for anyone, it could be one of our guys wanting to come to England and being denied,” Sharma said.

Stokes said Bashir was back in London and there had been “a lot of people jumping through hoops” to sort the delay with his visa.

“Hopefully we’re going to see him here over the weekend,” he added.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the government expects British citizens to be treated fairly by India.

“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.

The Pakistan Cricket Board wrote to the International Cricket Council last year to express concerns over waiting times for World Cup visas.

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