D'Arcy Short, Ashton Turner, Josh Philippe, Dan Christian, Ben Dunk, Jhye Richardson, Riley Meredith, Daniel Sams...
We could go on and on and on but barring a few outliers, IPL franchises have historically tended to have a strained relationship with BBL imports.
Which is why it’s understandable that there’s not a great deal of optimism amongst Punjab Kings fans, who’ve just seen their franchise replace the mighty Jonny Bairstow with an uncapped Australian whose career T20 numbers read as follows: 67 matches, 1409 runs, average 23.88 and SR 136.00.
But as is the case with every statistic in sport, the devil lies in the details.
Matt Short’s career numbers are underwhelming — so why have Punjab signed him?
Short’s overall numbers might look underwhelming but across the last two years, he’s really come of age as a batter. Since the start of 2021, he’s averaged 33.96 while striking at 150.00.
And this rise has directly coincided with his elevation to the top of the order.
An all-rounder that bowls off-spin, Short predominantly batted in the lower-order for the first seven years of his career, with 16 of his 30 T20 innings between 2014 and 2020 coming at No.6 or lower.
Adelaide Strikers decided to push him to the top of the order at the start of the 2021/22 BBL season and his fortunes changed immediately.
December 7, 2021, marked the first instance of Short opening the batting and since then he’s been a run-machine, amassing 169 more runs (951) than any other opener in the competition.
Short finished the recently-concluded edition of the BBL as the tournament’s second-highest run-getter, accumulating 458 runs at an average of 35.23 and SR of 144.47, the highlight being an unbeaten 59-ball 100 in a record chase of 230 against the Hurricanes.
And oh, he also captained the Strikers in the first half of the season in the absence of Travis Head.
What can Punjab expect from Matt Short the opener?
Plenty of fireworks in the powerplay
A big reason why Short’s cracked the T20 code since becoming an opener is his explosiveness batting in the powerplay.
Across the last two BBL seasons, a total of 17 batters scored 200 or more runs in the powerplay. Among them, no one struck at a higher rate than Short, who batted at a SR of 147.4 in overs 1-6 since the start of the 2021/22 BBL season.
It’d be easy to play down these numbers but that Short, in the powerplay, has out-batted the likes of Alex Hales, Matthew Wade, Chris Lynn and James Vince serves as evidence for the fact that he’s been close to untouchable right at the start of the innings.
This bodes well for Punjab, who desperately need someone that can provide the impetus up top, having lost Bairstow.
But unlike most powerplay bashers, Short does not slow down post the field restrictions
It is one thing striking at close to 150 in the powerplay, but as an opener, Short also strikes at 141.36 in the middle overs.
And the sample size is not small, for across the last two BBL editions, among openers, only Joe Clarke (317) has scored more runs in the 7-15 phase.
Short has batted beyond the 15th over five times in the past two seasons, and he’s proven to be an absolute force of nature whenever he’s found himself batting at the death.
As an opener, Short has faced 30 balls in the 16-20 phase and smashed 74 runs at a strike rate of 246.67.
On this occasion the sample size is small, but only two BBL openers (Colin Munro and Ben McDermott) have faced more balls and scored more runs in overs 16-20 since Short started opening the batting; notably, neither of them have scored as quickly as the 27-year-old.
The statistic above is also an indicator of the fact that Short is someone capable of batting long, batting deep and making big scores.
Across the last two BBL editions, no opener has batted beyond the 15th over as many times as Short (5) and in these five knocks, he’s posted scores of 63, 65, 72*, 84, 89 and 100*.
But it is also important to point out the fact that Short has also been guilty of throwing away starts. In his 30 innings as an opener, Short has been dismissed between 25 and 40 an astonishing 10 times.
And lastly, if it isn’t evident already, he’s ridiculously strong against pace
It is no coincidence that Matt Short has mind-bogglingly good numbers both at the start of the innings and right at the very end.
Because here’s the deal: he eats pace for breakfast.
Across the last two BBL seasons, 622 of Short’s 951 runs (65.40%) have come against the quicks. Nobody in the BBL has scored more runs against pace in this period and among those with 300 or more runs, only Alex Hales, Ashton Turner and Tim David have scored at a quicker rate.
But Short has averaged more than all the aforementioned three names. All things considered, he’s arguably been the best batter in the BBL against pace since he started opening the batting.
There’s more to Matt Short than just the batting — he’s also a handy off-spinner
Such has been Short’s exploits with the bat across the past two BBL seasons that it is easy to forget that he’s an out-and-out all-rounder.
Unlike his batting, we won’t be going deep into Short’s bowling but he’s a more-than-handy off-spinner who, in his overall BBL career, has taken 22 wickets at an economy of 7.3.
With all-rounders in general, getting better in one facet usually involves giving up (or giving less precedence to) another but with Short, it’s been the opposite.
19 of his 22 BBL wickets have come in the last two seasons, and in the 2022/23 edition of the BBL, he endured his best-ever season as a bowler, scalping 11 wickets at an ER of 7.1. Crucially, he bowled at least three overs on seven different occasions.
For someone with Short’s ability with the bat, you’d take these numbers blindfolded but it gets even better.
He’s also mighty flexible with the ball, having operated with the same proficiency in both the powerplay and the middle overs.
Matt Short seems to be the perfect package — so what's there for the Punjab fans to be wary about?
On paper, Short does look like a very shrewd signing but If I were a Punjab fan I wouldn’t count my chickens yet. Here’s why.
For a start, all these numbers have to be taken with a pinch of salt for the BBL, as we all know, is by no means the most competitive of leagues out there.
Plenty of players in the past have walked into the IPL having torn the BBL apart, but then have gone on to struggle immeasurably. Look no further than Matt’s namesake D’Arcy.
There would have been plenty of reason to be highly optimistic had Short featured elsewhere and boasted similar numbers, but the fact remains that the BBL is the only franchise league he’s been a part of.
We also did not deliberately explore Short’s numbers against spin — for a player’s exploits against the slower bowlers in Australian conditions are barely an indicator of their quality against spin.
On the surface, Short has posted decent numbers against spin — avg 27.73 and SR 138 since becoming an opener; SR of 125.24 in the middle overs — but what he’ll be up against in the IPL will be a whole new ball game altogether.
Taking everything into consideration, the jury is still out on Matt Short despite the evidently impressive numbers he’s put up in the BBL across the past two editions.
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