England skipper Stokes says no blame game after Ahmed's 'anxious' visa wait

Teenage spinner had issue after returning to India for third Test following tourists' 10-day break in UAE

England captain Ben Stokes congratulates Rehan Ahmed after he took the wicket of India's Srikar Bharat in the second Test in Visakhapatnam. AP
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England skipper Ben Stokes said on Wednesday that teenage spinner Rehan Ahmed had taken his visa scare in his stride ahead of his scheduled participation in this week's third Test against India.

The 19-year-old Ahmed, a leg-spinner, had an issue on returning to India after the team's 10-day break in Abu Dhabi.

Ahmed had a single-entry visa that expired once he left for a mid-series break to the UAE, and was initially stopped at the airport before being granted a temporary entry permit while authorities resolved the issue.

"It was always one of those situations for an individual where having to wait for that, it's always an anxious period, but thankfully we've got it through this morning," Stokes said on the eve of his landmark 100th Test.

"The great thing about youth is they just take everything in their stride and I thought he handled a situation – could have affected quite a lot of people in a different way – very, very well for such a young kid."

Ahmed was the latest cricketer with Pakistani ancestry to face entry troubles in India. Teammate Shoaib Bashir had to miss the opening Test due to his visa issues, but for Ahmed the case has been reported as a paperwork mistake on the English side.

"When you have a problem like that, rather than try to blame someone, you just have to try to find a solution and get it sorted," said Stokes.

"We've had two of those situations so far on this trip," he added. "When it came up at the airport we were straight on to doing what we needed to do to get Rehan in rather than wasting time trying to find out whose fault it was."

Ahmed, England's youngest cricketer in all three formats, has taken eight wickets in the series at an average of 36.37.

The match will see Stokes play his 100th Test, the 16th England cricketer to achieve the feat, but the star all-rounder played down the landmark.

"Milestones are what they are," he said. "I've always enjoyed playing against India because of the contest, the theatre it brings."

India v England second Test - Day 4 in pictures

The tourists made one change for the match that started in Rajkot today, with spinner Bashir making way for Mark Wood to come in as the second seamer alongside James Anderson.

England decided to change their combination of three spinners and one seamer, which they have used so far in the five-match series. The series is currently tied 1-1.

Wood, 34, makes his return after going wicketless in the opener, which the tourists won on a turning track.

The pitch in Rajkot looks hard with a tinge of green but Stokes remains wary of any predictions on the wicket after England's last Test at the venue in 2016 ended in a five-day draw.

"Taking a bit of knowledge from the last Test match we played here, albeit a long time ago, it was a pretty true, flat wicket," said Stokes.

"It looks a bit platey but I think it's a good wicket. Bringing in an extra seamer this week is the option we've gone with because we think it's going to give us the best chance of winning."

Updated: February 14, 2024, 11:16 AM