Pakistan’s women’s squad for the Asian Games slated to be held in China’s Hangzhou includes new talents, including Anoosha Nasir and Shawaal Zulfiqar, known for their impressive performances in the ICC Under 19 Women’s T20 World Cup and Emerging Women’s Teams Asia Cup, the Pakistan Cricket Board said in a statement on Tuesday.
Diana Baig has also made a comeback to international cricket after recovering from a finger injury sustained during a one-day international (ODI) against Australia earlier this year.
Pakistan’s captain Nida Dar is excited about the upcoming women’s tournament and expressing her pride in being part of Pakistan women’s cricket at the Asian Games, she said: “The Asian Games have witnessed some extraordinary moments for Pakistan women’s cricket, and it’s an immense privilege to be part of that history.”
Dar added that she is confident, as a captain, in the abilities of her teammates, both the experienced ones and the exciting young talents. “Together, we aim to create more unforgettable memories and clinch that third consecutive Gold.”
The skipper spoke about the sense of pride and determination within the team as it heads towards the 19th Asian Games. “We know the competition will be tough, but we have a strong belief in our skills and team spirit.”
Pakistan women’s team that have won gold medals in the last two editions, held in Guangzhou, China in 2010 and Incheon, South Korea 2014, and will be aiming for a hat-trick when they feature in this year’s event scheduled to take place from September 19 to 26. The event will be played in the T20 format.
Pakistan women’s team as per the ICC T20I rankings and tournament rule will feature in the event from the quarter-finals scheduled to take place from September 22 to 24. The semi-finals will be played on September 25, while the final will take place on September 26. The match for Bronze medal will also take place on September 26 (Tuesday).
Dar was, however, “disheartened” at Bismah Maroof’s absence in the squad who won’t be available to join the team due to the protocol of the organisers of the Asian Games prohibiting athletes to carry their children. Therefore, she opted out of the event.
“As known her for years, I understand how much representing Pakistan means to Bismah,” Dra said.
The captain doted on her “incredibly talented team and dedicated players” who, she added, are ready to seize the opportunity and excel on the big stage.
“Each one of us is determined to give our absolute best and uphold the legacy of Pakistan women’s cricket in the Asian Games,” Dar mentioned.
The 15-member squad was finalised after deliberations amongst the women’s selection committee led by Saleem Jaffar, head coach Mark Coles and captain Nida Dar.
Before the Asian Games, Pakistan women will feature in the home series against South Africa consisting three T20Is and three ODIs (part of ICC Women’s Championship 2022-25) in Karachi from September 1 to 14. The squad for the bilateral series will be announced in due course.
Ayesha Naseem, who featured in the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup, expressed her desire to retire from the game, which the board accepted.
Commenting on the development, Chief Selector Saleem Jaffar said Pakistan’s squad for the Asian Games represents the future of women’s cricket in the country.
“With a mix of emerging talent and seasoned campaigners, I expect the players to do well in the event,” he said.
The former cricketer maintained that the Asian Games present a unique opportunity for our young players to showcase their talent on an international stage.
“We have taken a strategic approach to assemble a squad that complements the conditions of the venue where the matches will take place. Each player’s strengths and adaptability to the playing conditions have also been assessed to form a solid squad,” he said.
Tania Mallick, the head of women cricket, said being a part of the Asian Games is an exhilarating experience for the team.
“It’s not just about the competition; it’s about camaraderie, sportsmanship, and representing the country with pride,” she said, adding that the players have shown incredible dedication and skill, and “now they have a golden opportunity to make history by winning the coveted title for the third time.”
Mallick termed the absence of Bismah Maroof “unfortunate” in the tournament due to the regulations in place. She then went on to extend her wishes to Ayesha Naseem for her future as well after she announced to quit cricket for personal reasons.
“PCB understands and respects her decision to quit the game for personal reasons,” Mallick added.
Squad: Nida Dar (captain), Aliya Riaz, Anoosha Nasir, Diana Baig, Fatima Sana, Muneeba Ali, Najiha Alvi, Nashra Sundhu, Nataliya Parvaiz, Omaima Sohail, Sadaf Shamas, Shawaal Zulfiqar, Sidra Amin, Syeda Aroob Shah and Umm-e-Hani