Explosive Pakistan batter Ayesha Naseem has retired from international cricket and, as a result, been left out of the squad for the women’s cricket competition at the upcoming Asian Games, to be played in China’s Hangzhou from September 23 to October 8.
Naseem’s decision, for “personal reasons”, has been speculated about over the last week but was confirmed by the board in its squad announcement. “We wish the best of luck to Ayesha Naseem in her future endeavours as the PCB understands and respects her decision to quit the game for personal reasons,” Tania Mallick, PCB’s head of women’s cricket, said in a board statement.
Naseem, 18, played four ODIs and 30 T20Is – including the T20 World Cups in 2020 and 2023 – after making her debut against Thailand in March 2020. She grabbed headlines for her power-hitting skills down the order and finished her career with a strike rate of 128.12, the best for a Pakistan batter in T20Is. Her tally of 18 T20I sixes is also only behind Nida Dar’s 27 for Pakistan, despite Naseem playing for only three years as compared to Dar’s decade-long career.
The Asian Games will be Dar’s first as full-time captain after Bismah Maroof stepped down from the role following Pakistan’s group-stage exit in the T20 World Cup earlier this year. Dar, the second-highest wicket-takers in women’s T20Is, captained the team for the first time in Pakistan’s last game of the T20 World Cup in South Africa. Maroof missed out on the event because of regulations that would not allow her to take her baby daughter along.
The squad has reaped the benefits of Pakistan’s participation in the Under-19 T20 World Cup earlier this year. Left-arm spinner Anosha Nasir and batter Shawaal Zulfiqar – both part of that inaugural Under-19 women’s team – were rewarded with maiden national call-ups. The two also played the women’s Emerging Teams Asia Cup in June where Anosha picked up three wickets and Shawaal opened the batting and scored 39 runs in two innings. The captain of the Under-19 side, the legspin-bowling allrounder Syeda Aroob Shah, also returned to the senior side after three years.
Diana Baig, who missed the T20 World Cup because of a finger injury, returned to the squad to pair up with the impressive Fatima Sana with the new ball. Allrounder Natalia Pervaiz, 27, also got a look-in, having last played internationals in 2018.
Javeria Khan, Sadia Iqbal, Tuba Hassan, Aiman Anwer and Sidra Nawaz, all part of the T20 World Cup squad, missed out.
“Our squad for the Asian Games represents the future of women’s cricket in Pakistan,” Saleem Jaffer, PCB women’s chief selector, said. “With a mix of emerging talent and seasoned campaigners, I expect the players to do well in the event.”
Pakistan won the gold medal at the Asian Games in 2010 and 2014, the last two times cricket was a part of the competition. This will also be Mark Coles’ first assignment in his second stint as the head coach of the team.
Pakistan women’s squad for Asian Games: Nida Dar (capt), Aliya Riaz, Anosha Nasir, Diana Baig, Fatima Sana, Muneeba Ali, Najiha Alvi, Nashra Sandhu, Nataliya Pervaiz, Omaima Sohail, Sadaf Shamas, Shawaal Zulfiqar, Sidra Ameen, Syeda Aroob Shah, Umm-e-Hani