YORKSHIRE’s preparations for today’s County Championship match against Gloucestershire were last night thrown into turmoil when new overseas signing Mitchell Starc was deported due to problems with his visa.
Starc had to fly from Heathrow back to Australia after complications with his paperwork meant he was unable to link-up with the team at Bristol, where he had been set to make his Yorkshire debut.
Starc, 22, had been detained at Heathrow for more than four hours on arrival in England on Saturday before travelling to Leeds to meet his new team-mates.
He went back to Heathrow yesterday to meet Border Agency officials in a failed attempt to rectify a blunder thought to have been attributable to Cricket Australia.
Yorkshire hope that Starc, a highly-rated left-arm pace bowler, will be back in time to play against Hampshire in the Championship at Headingley a week today.
In a statement last night the club apportioned blame fairly and squarely at the Australian end and insisted they had done everything by the book.
“Following Mitchell Starc attending an appointment with the UK Border Agency, he has been instructed to return to Australia in order to complete the necessary visa documentation,” read the statement. “The problem was as a result of the incorrect advice given to him in Australia.
“The necessary paperwork from Yorkshire County Cricket Club is in order and accepted by the UK Border Agency but unfortunately is insufficient to allow Mitchell to fulfil the full visa requirement.
“We are hoping this matter can be resolved quickly in Australia and that he will return as soon as possible.”
The Gloucestershire game was supposed to have been the first of four Championship matches for which Starc was available in an initial five-week deal.
He could be called up for Australia’s one-day tour of the UK between June 21 and July 10 and/or Australia A’s trip to England between July 27 and August 17, although Yorkshire are confident his stay will be extended.
News of his deportation came on the day that Ajmal Shahzad joined Roses rivals Lancashire on loan until the end of the season following his much-publicised rift with the Yorkshire set-up.
Starc took to Twitter to confirm that he had been forced to leave the country.
“Well that’s a first!” he tweeted. “Being deported from England.. Surely nothing else can go wrong can it?!?!”
As to the administrative problem itself, he added: “Visa issue. Incorrect communication from aus. Will be straight back to Uk ASAP once sorted. In time for next @Yorkshireccc game.”
It capped a bizarre few days all round, with Starc having arrived in Yorkshire to discover a spelling mistake on his sponsored car.
“Mitchell Stac Sponsored By Benfield Hyundai Leeds,” ran the wording to much merriment in the Yorkshire dressing room.
While Starc makes a draining 10,000-mile dash back home, followed, he hopes, by another 10,000-mile dash straight back again, Yorkshire are covered in the short term by the presence of Tim Bresnan for today’s match.
The all-rounder, who has featured in the last two Championship fixtures, was originally made unavailable by England for this one but the selectors want him to have more practice ahead of the first Test against the West Indies on May 17.
One man particularly keen to advance his international claims is Shahzad, who goes straight into Lancashire’s squad for today’s match against Sussex at Hove.
The 26-year-old, whom Yorkshire’s executive chairman Colin Graves last week accused of not being a team player, has joined Lancashire with a view to a permanent move in the close season.
The Red Rose county acted following an injury to all-rounder Tom Smith and with ongoing doubts over the arrival of overseas player Junaid Khan.
Mike Watkinson, Lancashire’s director of cricket, said: “With Tom Smith being ruled out for at least a month after tearing a hamstring and Pakistan set to announce this week their squad for a series in Sri Lanka this summer, which could mean us missing out on bringing Junaid back, the availability of a hugely talented and experienced bowler comes at a good time.”
Peter Moores, Lancashire’s head coach, commented: “We are delighted to bring a bowler of Ajmal’s quality into our squad. He will join a strong seam attack, giving us the depth needed to compete on all fronts.”
Shahzad, who has played one Test and 11 one-day internationals, is the first Yorkshire cricketer to join Lancashire since David Byas’s trans-Pennine move in 2002.
Lancashire are thought to have beaten off competition from Somerset, Sussex and Surrey for his services.
Shahzad will have to wait until Friday, June 29 to encounter his former team-mates when Lancashire visit Headingley for a Twenty20 match, the return taking place at Old Trafford a week later.
Yorkshire yesterday endeavoured to ensure that he left on a slightly happier note when their official Twitter feed stated: “Wishing @AJShahzad all best with Lanky! Real shame it didn’t work out at #yccc. Both parties on different cricket pages but a genuine talent.
“Ajmal had different thoughts on how his cricket should go than club. He wasn’t happy. Threatened positive atmosphere in squad. No one at club is happy that Ajmal has gone and we do genuinely wish him well.”
Sayers just the ticket for Yorkshire: Page 20.