Hyderabad, Jan 24: England captain Ben Stokes said he was pretty devastated over the visa issues preventing uncapped off-spinner Shoaib Bashir from traveling to India for the Test series starting on Thursday, and revealed suggested the squad should not fly without him, though it was never a serious thought in the first place.
Bashir, 20, is of Pakistani ancestry, and was the only member of the touring team to not receive his visa in time for the series. As a result, he was stuck in Abu Dhabi, the venue for the visitors’ pre-series camp, while the rest of the England team travelled to Hyderabad for the Test series opener starting on Thursday at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium.
With Bashir, born in the United Kingdom, now flying back to England from Abu Dhabi to appear in the Indian high commission office in London in person for his visa application paperwork, it means that he is effectively unavailable for selection in the first Test.
"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 not going to travel around this but Bash knows he's had our full support.
"I'm pretty devastated that Bash has had to go through this. As a leader, as a captain, when one of your team-mates is affected by something like that you do get a bit emotional. I know he's back in London and a lot of people are jumping through hoops to try and get this through quicker. Hopefully we're going to see him here over the weekend," said a disgruntled Stokes in the pre-match press conference.
India captain Rohit Sharma also felt bad for Bashir and hoped for him to be in the country soon. "I feel for him honestly. Unfortunately I don't sit in the visa office to give you more details. But I hope he can make it here quickly and enjoy our country and play 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."
Previously on Wednesday afternoon, England announced they would be fielding three spinners in Jack Leach, Rehan Ahmed and debutant Tom Hartley, along with part-time off-spin of Joe Root and a lone seam bowling option in Mark Wood, meaning James Anderson was left out.
"It’s very exciting for Tom to make his Test debut. I’m looking forward to seeing him out there and captaining him. He’s been very impressive in the build-up in Abu Dhabi. He bowls at a very difficult pace to be able to handle out here and he’s someone who gets a lot of natural variation. In India, that is sometimes the hardest thing to face," added Stokes on being excited by left-arm spinner Hartley’s debut.
He also said Wood’s role will be to make a huge impact in short bursts of tearaway fast-bowling. "What Woody brings with his high pace makes him a real impact bowler. He’s a weapon we can use in short, sharp spells. We’ve already said that to him – bowl as fast as you can in short periods. There’s no worries about thinking about long spells. That’s how I envision using Woody before we’ve bowled a ball."
The move to go with three specialist spinners and a lone fast-bowler raised many eyebrows, but Stokes, aiming to get a series win for England in India for the first time since the 2-1 triumph in 2012, believes the combination was decided based on the conditions at the ground.
"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. You have always got to think that the ball is going to turn in India, but you don’t want to go in with any pre-conceived ideas.
"We have to adapt to whatever we have presented in front of us, with bat and ball. It’s just being true to yourself, making selections and decisions. It comes easier as I’ve done more of this. If I think the decision is best for the team, then it’s probably the right one.
"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. We take opportunity head on and we run towards it – we don’t back away from anything," said Stokes.