Hyderabad, Jan 22: England’s first practice session at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium on Monday began without uncapped off-spinner Shoaib Bashir, who is still in the UAE due to visa issues delaying his arrival in India.
Bashir, who plays for Somerset in England’s domestic cricket circuit, is of Pakistani heritage and is the only member from the Test side facing paperwork issues. Dan Lawrence, named as Harry Brook’s replacement, is expected to arrive in Hyderabad on Monday night.
Head coach Brendon McCullum insisted Bashir will be available for selection ahead of the opening Test on January 25. "Bash will join us hopefully tomorrow as well. He's got a couple of issues with his visa coming through. We're confident on the back of the help from the BCCI and the Indian government that (the issue) will sort itself out pretty quickly as well."
"Things take time, don't they? Everyone is doing what they can. It's a process we need to go through. We're pretty confident that we're close. The time that Bash had with the squad over in Abu Dhabi, where he fitted in seamlessly, will serve him greatly," he said.
"We've also got a little bit of support out there for him so he's not on his own. We're hoping the news will come through today that his visa has been approved, then we'll get him to sink his teeth into this series," said McCullum to reporters.
Speaking about the status of skipper Ben Stokes, who underwent surgery to solve a left knee problem in November last year, McCullum said the all-rounder should be good to go for the series opener against India. Stokes trained with the England squad during their camp in Abu Dhabi but is not expected to shoulder bowling duties in the five-match Test series.
"He looks like a greyhound. He's put the work in, everyone knows his work ethic is phenomenal. I've seen him running around and I think he's good to go. We'll obviously make that call as late as we need to. But he's put all the work in, and we'll just have to wait and see."
McCullum also offered his support to Brook, who flew back home after withdrawing from Tests against India on Sunday due to personal reasons. “Obviously our thoughts are with Harry and his family, it’s a tough time. It’s a privileged position to play cricket for a living but some things are more important than that.”
“There’s a chance he may return later in the tour but for now we just want him to be with his family and do his thing. We’ll just keep talking. When he says he might be ready, when that conversation starts to happen, cool. If that doesn’t happen then that’s OK as well.”
England last won a Test series in India 12 years ago, where Alastair Cook was the captain and spinners Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, along with Kevin Pietersen played leading roles in the 2-1 triumph.
In the 2021 tour, England had won the opening Test in Chennai but lost the next three games to lose the series 3-1. England are yet to lose a Test series under the Stokes-McCullum leadership group, but the tour of India will be the toughest challenge of their regime so far.
"That's what I love about this series - we are going to be tested, and our methods are going to be challenged and we'll see where we are at. It's a pretty exciting opportunity. In the end, all you're trying to do is get guys in the frame of mind where they're totally present at the moment, they feel 10 feet tall and bulletproof when they walk out to play."
"Then it's allowing their skills and their talents to come out, make quick assessments of what they need to do at the moment. We've got to take 20 wickets with the ball in each Test match and we've got to get one more run than them with the bat. It's not rocket science but it will be the nuances of the game, when to stick and when to twist which will be the fascinating part," concluded McCullum. (IANS)