Visa delay forces Pakistan-origin Shoaib Bashir to return to UK

Uncapped spinner has been ruled out of the first Test against India

By Web Desk
January 23, 2024
Shoaib Bashir - ECB 

Uncapped spinner Shoaib Bashir has returned to the UK and has been excluded from the first Test against India in Hyderabad on Thursday due to a visa delay. The delay prevented the rookie English spinner from joining his new teammates in the country.

At just 20 years old and on his inaugural senior England tour, Surrey-born Bashir now shares the experience of several cricketers of Pakistani heritage who faced visa delays en route to India. Notably, Moeen Ali and Saqib Mahmood have encountered similar situations in the past, as did Australia’s Usman Khawaja before his team's Test tour last year.

England expected the issue, preventing Bashir from continuing beyond the team's pre-series camp in Abu Dhabi, to be sorted before Tuesday, allowing the Somerset spinner to join the squad. However, he now has to head back home, where his British passport was issued, with the weekend as the updated goal for his arrival in India.

Addressing the media ahead of the first match in the series, where his team aims to break India's 11-year unbeaten streak at home, Ben Stokes stated: “I’m devastated for him. As captain, I find it particularly frustrating that we have picked a player and he’s not with us because of visa issues.

“We announced that squad in mid-December, and now Bash finds himself without a visa to get here. 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.”

With only six first-class matches into his professional career, off-spinner Bashir was in contention for a debut after impressing during England’s preparations and as part of a Lions training camp in Abu Dhabi late last year.

However, despite applying for his visa on 11 December – and every other application for England’s touring party having been approved in good time – Bashir has returned home and faces further paperwork. 

A representative from the England and Wales Cricket Board was due to meet him on arrival in London and assist.

The UK government would not comment on Bashir’s individual case. However, a Downing Street spokesperson added: “More broadly, we do expect India to treat British citizens fairly at all times in its visa processes. And we have previously raised issues of British citizens with Pakistani heritage … we’ve raised the issues that some have raised about their experience applying for visas with the Indian High Commission in London.”

Bashir's non-participation implies that Lancashire's Tom Hartley may make his Test debut, functioning as a second left-arm spinner alongside the returning Jack Leach. 

An alternative option is Rehan Ahmed, a leg-spinner with Pakistani heritage, who has held a visa since being named as a standby player for the World Cup last October.