England Captain Stokes expresses devastation over Shoaib Bashir’s visa woes

Leadership dilemma for Stokes as visa issues sideline Shoaib Bashir from England’s Test series opener in India. The captain hopes for a swift resolution while unveiling a spin-heavy lineup.

England captain Ben Stokes revealed his deep disappointment over the visa challenges faced by uncapped off-spinner Shoaib Bashir, preventing his participation in the Test series against India starting Thursday. Stokes expressed initial tongue-in-cheek suggestions that the squad should not fly without Bashir, though acknowledging the impracticality of such a decision.

Shoaib Bashir, 20, born in the UK with Pakistani heritage, found himself unable to travel to India as the only team member without a visa. As a result, he remained in Abu Dhabi while the rest of the England team headed to Hyderabad for the Test series opener at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium.

Stokes, in a pre-match press conference, shared his emotional reaction, stating, “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 do get a bit emotional.” He added that despite the suggestion not to fly without Bashir, it was never a serious consideration.

Advertisement

Bashir, now returning to England for an in-person visa application at the Indian high commission office in London, is effectively ruled out for the first Test. Stokes expressed hope for a swift resolution, saying, “Hopefully, we’re going to see him here over the weekend.”

India captain Rohit Sharma also empathized with Bashir, expressing his desire for a quick resolution to enable him to play cricket in India.

In terms of on-field strategy, England announced a spin-heavy lineup for the series opener, fielding three spinners – Jack Leach, Rehan Ahmed, and debutant Tom Hartley. Stokes defended the decision, emphasizing that it was based on analyzing the ground conditions. Mark Wood was the lone seam-bowling option, with James Anderson left out.

Stokes expressed excitement about left-arm spinner Hartley’s debut, highlighting his impressive performance in the build-up. Regarding Wood’s role, he stated, “What Woody brings with his high pace makes him a real impact bowler.”

The captain clarified the decision to go with three specialist spinners and one fast-bowler, stating, “I don’t necessarily think it’s bold or brave, it’s just me and Baz (head coach Brendon McCullum) looking at the wicket and picking the XI that we think will give us the best chance.”

Despite acknowledging India’s prowess in home conditions, Stokes emphasized the team’s readiness to embrace the challenge, stating, “India are an absolute beast in their home conditions, there’s no doubt about that. But that presents us with an opportunity. This team loves opportunities.”

-IANS