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Ben Stokes and Co’s historic chartered flight landing hits immigration roadblock in Rajkot before IND vs ENG 3rd Test

The England team returned to India after enjoying a 10-day break in Abu Dhabi between the second and the third Test through an Abu Dhabi-Rajkot chartered flight

The Ben Stokes-led England side returned to India on Monday after spending 10 days in Abu Dhabi. Their arrival in Rajkot ahead of the third Test match against India, however, was full of events. Leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed was stopped by immigration officers at the Hirasar Airport for carrying the wrong visa. He was the only member of the 31-man England contingent to have visa issues in Rajkot. He arrived with a single-entry visa which does not allow a person to leave India and re-enter.

Ben Stokes and Co arrived in Rajkot for the third Test against India(REUTERS)

The youngster was allowed after a temporary visa was issued and the BCCI and ECB officials were confident that the issue would be resolved in the next 24 hours. This won’t have any bearing on Rehan practising with the England squad. This is the second visa-related issue of an England player during this tour. A couple of weeks ago, off-spinner Shoaib Bashir had to go back to London to complete the formalities before entering India. He missed the series opener in Hyderabad but made his debut in the second Test in Visakhapatnam.

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Stokes and company took some time off after losing in Visakhapatnam. They flew to Abu Dhabi, where they had set up a training camp before arriving in India, to indulge in recreational activities. Instead of coming via Ahmedabad or Mumbai, the England team decided to land directly in Rajkot on a chartered flight. This was the first instance where an international flight landed directly in Rajkot. For this purpose, a temporary immigration counter was set up with officials from Jamnagar overseeing the work.

England to host first official practice session on Tuesday before 3rd Test

Both India and England will straightaway set the ball rolling at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium on Tuesday – the first practice session for the visitors before the all-important third Test set to begin on Thursday. India held a closed-door session on Monday.

England will be the first to train on Tuesday. Their nets session will begin at 9:30 and is likely to go on till noon. India’s practice session is in the afternoon. Rohit Sharma and company will start their training from 1 pm.

Problems for India

Even though India won the previous Test convincingly, one would like to believe, the hosts have more question marks lingering over their heads than England. Injury concerns and unavailability of key players have pegged India back right from the beginning of the series.

Last week, it was confirmed that Virat Kohli would not take any part in the entire series due to personal reasons. On Monday, BCCI announced that KL Rahul was ruled out of the third Test. The right-handed batter was named in the squad for the remaining three Tests subject to fitness and as per the BCCI medical team, Rahul has reached 90% fitness and would require a few more days before being match-ready. He is almost to certain to play in Ranchi and Dharamsala.

This, however, leaves a huge gap in India’s middle-order. With no Kohli,, Rahul out with injury and Shreyas Iyer axed after a poor run with the bat, the responsibility will rest on Rajat Patidar, who made his debut in Visakhapatnam and either Sarfaraz Khan or Devdut Padikkal – one of them will make their debut.

As things stand now, Sarfaraz, who was a part of the squad in the previous Test, looks likely to get the nod.

The only good thing for India is the return of Ravindra Jadeja. This, however, means they would have to leave out either Axar Patel or Kuldeep Yadav from their XI.

The five-match series is locked 1-1.


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