Bangladesh Twenty20 international skipper Sakib al Hasan on Sunday tried to downplay the embarrassment of losing their fourth straight 20-over match against Afghanistan by labelling them as a ‘big team’ in the format, but a closer inspection raises many doubts over Sakib’s claim.
Mohammad Nabi’s blistering 84 and spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman’s career-best 4-15 handed the hosts a 25-run defeat against Afghanistan in a group-stage match of the tri-nation Twenty20 series at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur, Dhaka.
Bangladesh, earlier, were clean swept by the Afghans in a three-match T20 series in Dehradun, India in June last year after winning the first T20 match between the countries in a first round match of the 2014 ICC World Twenty20 in Dhaka.
This lacklustre record against a side which is still relatively new in international cricket should be alarming for the Tigers but Sakib tried to brush aside this notion by claiming that Afghanistan are a superior side than Bangladesh in the format.
‘They [Afghanistan] are definitely a big team in Twenty20s. We are ranked 10th, they are seventh,’ Sakib told reporters in the post-match press conference in Dhaka.
‘As they are ranked seventh, it is difficult for us to win against them. It happened in Dehradun and it again happened today [Sunday],’ he added.
Afghanistan’s victory on Sunday was also their 12th straight win in the format, a feat never before done in Twenty20 internationals.
This stat, although very impressive, is actually a bit misleading as Afghanistan didn’t beat any of the higher ranked sides in this period as they played against only three sides, Bangladesh, Ireland and Zimbabwe beating them four, five and three times respectively.
Before their current winning spree, Afghanistan had won 11 T20 matches in a row starting with a shock win against West Indies in March, 2016 and then beating Ireland, UAE and Oman on five, four and one occasion respectively.
Since playing their first T20I match against Ireland in February, 2010 Afghanistan have won 52 of their 73 matches, but none of those victories have come against top Test playing nations.
The war-torn nation have enjoyed most success against Ireland, beating them 12 times in 15 encounters and Zimbabwe, who they are undefeated against in the format with wins in all eight matches.
Bangladesh and West Indies are the only other Test playing nations to suffer defeat against them but West Indies’ have had the upper-hand against the Afghans, winning in three out of four matches while Bangladesh stand with a dismal record of four losses in five matches.
Despite their rapid rise in the T20 rankings, which is aided by their impressive record against lower ranked teams, Afghanistan are yet to beat any one of the remaining seven Test playing nations, and have even lost to weaker teams like Hong Kong, Kenya, Nepal and Netherlands.
Afghanistan have proven themselves as a dominant T20 side against teams who are yet to find their feat in the format, like Bangladesh, Ireland and Zimbabwe while they are still struggling against big teams.
Since 2010, Afghanistan have taken part in four consecutive ICC Twenty20 World Cups and are yet to qualify for the knock-out stage of the tournament.
Without victories against any of the top ranked sides and not achieving anything of note in big ICC events, Afghanistan can’t be considered as a top flight team in T20s, which meant that Bangladesh’s current hapless state against them should not be taken lightly.