LAHORE: Nida Dar will lead Pakistan women’s cricket squad at the Hangzhou Asian Games to be held in China in September this year. The event was originally planned to be organised between September 10 and 25, 2022 before being postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic in and around the host city of Hangzhou. It will now be held from September 23 to October 8. The Asian Games, in its 19th edition, is being organised in China for the third time. Chinese capital Beijing hosted the Games in 1990 while Guangzhou hosted the prestigious event in 2010. The Pakistan women’s team won gold medals in the last two editions, held in Guangzhou in 2010 and Incheon, South Korea in 2014, and will be aiming for a hat-trick when they feature in this year’s event to be played in T20 format. Former captain Bismah Maroof has opted out of the Asian Games because of the event’s rules and regulations that do not allow athletes to carry their children. Explosive Pakistan batter Ayesha Naseem has retired from international cricket and, as a result, has been left out of the squad for the women’s cricket competition at the upcoming Asian Games. 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 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’s 27 for Pakistan, despite Naseem playing for only three years as compared to Nida’s decade-long career. Left-arm spinner Anoosha Nasir and right-handed batter Shawaal Zulfiqar have been rewarded for their strong performances in the ICC U-19 Women’s T20 World Cup and Emerging Women’s Teams Asia Cup with maiden call-ups in the women’s squad. The 15-player outfit also features Diana Baig who makes a return to international cricket after recovering from a finger injury that she sustained in the third and final One-day International against Australia in January this year. The team, as per the ICC T20I rankings and tournament’s 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. 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, the team 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. Chief Selector Saleem Jaffar said: “Our squad for the Asian Games represents the future of women’s cricket in Pakistan. With a mix of emerging talent and seasoned campaigners, I expect the players to do well in the event. 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.” 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 and Umm-e-Hani. Player Support staff: Ayesha Ashhar (team manager), Mark Coles (head coach), Saleem Jaffer (bowling coach), Mauhtashim Rashid (fielding coach) and Rifat Gill (physiotherapist).