"The visa has been issued by London."
Shoaib Bashir’s call-up to the England squad was a welcome surprise, however, it has been overshadowed by visa issues.
These issues resulted in him being initially stranded in Abu Dhabi while England travelled to Hyderabad ahead of their Test series against India.
On January 23, 2024, it emerged that he had returned to the UK.
The following day, the issuing of the visa was confirmed.
The England and Wales Cricket Board said:
“We’re glad the situation has now been resolved.
“Shoaib Bashir has now received his visa, and is due to travel to join up with the team in India this weekend.”
A spokesperson for the Indian Foreign Office said: “The visa has been issued by London.
“There are rules and regulations governing the issuance of an Indian visa. The same were being applied in this case.”
He had only played six first-class matches before receiving his first Test call-up.
However, the British-Pakistani has missed out on the first Test and in the years to come, he will remember that the incident was a reminder of his status in a part of the world where not everyone welcomes his kind.
It appears that individuals of Pakistani origin face additional hurdles to enter India.
The sport has long been seized upon by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a political tool, and so, too, has anti-Muslim sentiment, encouraged and on the rise under the populist strongman’s rule.
Making 20-year-old Shoaib Bashir wait in Abu Dhabi for paperwork seemed unnecessary given that he applied promptly on December 11, with the expectation that the processing could have been completed in due time, and the documents should arrive soon.
But what else does this achieve other than to make Bashir feel small and India look smaller?
Pakistanis frequently face these obstacles to enter India, which is home to approximately 200 million Muslims.
Many Pakistani journalists struggled to obtain visas for the 2023 ICC World Cup.
For Zainab Abbas, she had been covering the World Cup, however, she left India after an Indian lawyer lodged a police complaint against her over “derogatory” tweets.
Vineet Jindal claimed Zainab mocked India and also alleged that she left the country to avoid legal action.
Before that, Australia’s Pakistan-born Usman Khawaja was forced to arrive in India for a Test series later than his teammates.
On Bashir’s visa, Head Coach Brendon McCullum suggested:
“Things take time, don’t they?”
His comment appeared cheerful but if the England team is unimpressed in private, they know not to call out India as the country rules world cricket.
The longstanding external perception of India as an unrivalled cricket powerhouse, seamlessly intertwined with its government, exercising its will without repercussions, is not a recent development.
The orchestration of the 2023 World Cup revealed that, despite the nominal authority of the ICC, it is India and its Board of Control for Cricket that truly dictates the course of events.
News of Shoaib Bashir’s snub came on the same day Narendra Modi arrived in Ayodhya to open a Hindu temple on the site of the former Babri Masjid mosque.
The mosque’s destruction in 1992 sparked communal violence that had not been seen in India since Partition in 1947.
This has transformed the site into one of India’s most contested spaces.
So it was not a surprise that Modi chose Ayodhya as the unofficial starting point of his re-election campaign, with elections taking place in the Spring.
He is expected to win another term as Prime Minister.
It was ironic that the ECB suggested that they would go to the Indian government to help Shoaib Bashir but it made sense to some extent.
Jay Shah is the BCCI’s Secretary.
His father Amit is India’s Minister of Home Affairs, effectively Modi’s right-hand man.
However, the blurred lines between cricket and politics in India have become so complex that any decision taken by the BCCI has to be viewed by Modi’s ruling BJP.
Sometimes, the 2023 World Cup appeared to be a platform for Modi’s self-promotion and it nearly succeeded.
Had India not faltered in the final, Modi would have achieved the photo opportunity he desired, presenting the trophy to Rohit Sharma in the presence of over 90,000 fans at a stadium named after him.
Instead, he found himself handing it over to Australia’s Pat Cummins, who stood there, solitary and bewildered, on stage long after Modi had departed.
Shoaib Bashir is not the first person of Pakistani heritage to have experienced the selective nature of Indian immigration procedures and he will not be the last.
However, the routine occurrence of such incidents should not serve as a justification for overlooking or accepting this problematic process.
Although Bashir has now joined his teammates, the incident will be a talking point if he earns his first cap.
As for his family, they are unlikely to travel to India as it is not worth experiencing the same issues as their son.