England Cricketer's Visa Issues For India Tour Prompt British Government To Call For Fair Treatment

England's captain Ben Stokes addresses the media ahead of their first cricket test match against India in Hyderabad, India, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)
England's captain Ben Stokes addresses the media ahead of their first cricket test match against India in Hyderabad, India, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)
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An England cricketer’s problems obtaining a visa for the team’s test series in India have prompted the British government to call for fair treatment for any of its citizens seeking to enter the Asian country.

Shoaib Bashir, a 20-year-old British Muslim of Pakistani heritage, was the only member of England’s touring party to experience a significant delay over his visa application.

Instead of flying to India with the rest of his teammates from Abu Dhabi, where England held a pre-series training camp, Bashir had to fly back to London and present his passport in person in an effort to get the correct approval at the Indian embassy.

Bashir finally received his visa on Wednesday and is due to join up with the team in India this weekend, the England and Wales Cricket Board said.

“We’re glad the situation has been resolved,” the ECB said.

England captain Ben Stokes said his initial reaction was to refuse to travel to India until Bashir’s case was sorted, before quickly backing down because of the ramifications such a decision would have.

The British government also reacted, saying “we absolutely expect India to treat British citizens fairly at all times in its visa process.”

Without wanting to comment on the specifics of Bashir’s case, a government statement said: “We have previously raised the issues British citizens with Pakistani heritage experience applying for visas with the Indian High Commission in London.”

Political tensions between India and Pakistan have often spilled over into cricket, where the two neighboring countries have a longstanding rivalry.

The visa issues meant that Bashir, who is on his first international tour with England, was ruled out of contention for the first test starting in Hyderabad on Thursday.

“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,” Stokes said Wednesday, before Bashir received his visa.

“I know it’s a way bigger thing, doing that. That was probably just 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."

Stokes said he was “pretty devastated” that Bashir has experienced these complications.

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

India captain Rohit Sharma expressed sympathy for Bashir.

“I feel for him honestly,” said Sharma. “Unfortunately, I don’t sit in the visa office to give you more details on that but hopefully he can make it quickly, enjoy our country and play some cricket as well.”

English player Saqib Mahmood, whose parents are from Pakistan, had to be withdrawn from England Lions’ tour of India in 2019 after similar delays.

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AP cricket: https://apnews.com/hub/cricket