Afghanistan qualifies directly for 2020 T20 World Cup Super 12’s
For the first time in its cricketing life, Afghanistan has earned direct qualification through to the Super 12 of the T20 World Cup set to take place next year. The tournament works by offering the top eight ranked teams in the world an automatic spot in the Super 12’s - the rest, of course, are forced to qualify. In years past, this top eight would typically be relatively predictable and would consist of Australia (the hosts), Pakistan, India, England, South Africa, New Zealand, West Indies and Sri Lanka.
Afghanistan, however, have demonstrated enormous improvement in recent years, and just 18 months after being promoted to Full Member status by the ICC, find themselves in the top 8 T20 teams in the world. They recently knocked Sri Lanka out of the top eight, and as of the time of writing have a rating of 92 compared to the ninth placed Sri Lanka’s 87.
Sri Lanka, alongside other Full Member Bangladesh - who find themselves in tenth - will need to negotiate their way through the group stage. They will be comfortably favoured to advance, though, with the top four teams of the eight who ultimately make up the group stage - the other six will be determined during the 2020 ICC T20 World Cup qualifier - making it through to the final four Super 12 spots.
The direct qualification is indicative of Afghanistan’s rapid rise, from a nation barely on the cricketing calendar a decade ago to one which can now legitimately compete with many of the world’s top nations.
Never was this more apparent than in the Asia Cup late in 2018. Though an ODI tournament rather than a T20 one, it nonetheless highlighted the improvements the nation has made from a cricket perspective. Afghanistan demolished Sri Lanka by 91 runs in their first match, before putting on an even more convincing show when they beat Bangladesh by 136 runs. In the Super Four, they suffered some misfortune, going down first to Pakistan by just three wickets with only three balls remaining, before falling three runs short in a chase against Bangladesh. Their final match saw them take on the mighty Indians, with whom they tied in a monumental effort.
The qualification for the T20 World Cup, therefore, is well and truly deserved. The tournament, which is set to take place in Australia in October and November of 2020, will see the world’s best players come together to compete for the coveted crown. Afghanistan will certainly not be one of the more fancied sides - the likes of Pakistan, India, England and host nation Australia will take those mantles - but one thing is for sure: anyone who takes this team lightly does so at their own peril.