Afif Hossain, since his debut in One-Day Internationals, has been depicted by the Bangladesh team management as a solution for number seven and thus has been denied to bat higher up the order.
That idea seems to have manifested due to the 23-year-old’s ability to clear the fence with ease, but that’s clearly a wrong perception as the stats seem to show.
While Afif is one of the country’s cleanest hitters and sweet timers of the ball, he playing at seven is nothing but a waste of his capabilities.
Afif himself previously said in an interview that in 50-over cricket, he prefers to bat at four, and at number three in the shortest format.
But since his first innings in ODIs, in which he played at four after Liton Das and Tamim Iqbal put together a massive 292-run opening stand, Afif has never played at four and has played only twice at five.
Except for that, he has played nine out of his 16 international innings at seven, three at six, and once even at eight.
In these 16 innings, he has three scores of fifty, along with two scores of 40+. While that might seem underwhelming, the left-handed batsman has played more than 30 deliveries only on five occasions. It is expected as playing at seven, a batsman is likely to never get too many balls to play.
Afif has scored all three of his fifties in 2022. The first came against Afghanistan in February when the Tigers were down to 45-6 while chasing 216.
Afif, from there, scored an unbeaten 93 off 115 deliveries and put together a 174-run stand with Mehidy Hasan Miraz to lead Bangladesh to a win.
His next fifty came against South Africa. As the whole team faltered, Afif scored 72 as Bangladesh scored 194-9.
The latest came against Zimbabwe in an attempt to avoid the clean sweep. Afif, with time on his hand, got set, played briskly and handled the situation to take Bangladesh to 256-9 despite wickets falling aplenty at the other end.
And while Mahmudullah Riyad, who scored 39 off 69 deliveries, continues to be placed ahead of Afif in the batting order, struggled, Afif made it look pretty simple to keep the runs flowing.
An analysis of Afif’s batting style posits a simple result, that he is not a slogger. Rather, he is a proactive batsman who prefers to get set and accelerate. Just like Liton, the young left-hander prefers to spend some time at the crease before going belligerent.
But yet, for some inexplicable reason, Bangladesh have rarely tried him up the order. He got the chance in West Indies and blew it, but this Zimbabwe tour could have been the perfect time to try him up the order.
Yet, they kept trying Mahmudullah, who seems to have lost all his reflex and timing.
With a World Cup in India coming up, the middle-order will be important for some sort of success there. And Afif can be the obvious solution at five or six.
The data suggests that if he can find some time at the crease before the slog overs come by, he can properly accelerate, something Bangladesh have been lacking from Mahmudullah.
With the World Cup less than a year away, will the team management listen? Or will the question once again fall on deaf ears?