DUBAI, UAE (CMC): Reigning champions West Indies have qualified automatically for next year’s Twenty20 World Cup in Australia. The Caribbean side booked their spot by virtue of their current seventh place in the ICC T20 rankings at year end, with the top eight teams, including hosts Australia, all securing their places at the showpiece. Minnows Afghanistan, coached by Trinidadian and former West Indies head coach Phil Simmons, also qualified directly by virtue of their eighth place in the rankings. Former champions and three-time finalists Sri Lanka, ranked ninth, and Bangladesh, 10th, will have to go through the group stage of the tournament with six other qualifiers in order to make the Super 12s. Six teams from the ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier later this year will join Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the group stage, with four qualifying to the Super 12 stage. West Indies won the T20 World Cup for the second time back in 2016 when they beat England in a dramatic final in Kolkata. Since then, their form has been erratic, however. In 2017, they won six of 11 matches and last year managed a mere two wins in 13 outings while losing to Pakistan and India in 3-0 clean sweeps. For the Windies, the news of their direct qualification will be welcomed, especially after the disappointment of missing out on a direct route to the ICC 50-overs World Cup in England next May. They were forced to go through a 10-team qualifier in Zimbabwe last March in order to book their place at an event they have won twice. Top-ranked Pakistan, India, England, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand are the other automatic qualifiers for next year’s T20 World Cup from October 18 to November 15.