cricket:image:1434774 [900x506]
cricket:image:1434774 [900x506] (Credit: BCCI)

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The white ball wants to fly and, lately, it looks to the batters to satisfy this craving. Travis Head, in particular, has been very kind to it. They've seemed quite taken with each other recently; had a very successful date right here in Ahmedabad a few months ago. Then he showed up. The old flame.

Oh they ran so hot when they were together. Early 2015 was filled with some totally NSFW scenes. Ninety-three thousand people saw them frolicking in broad daylight out on the MCG. Brendon McCullum had to avert his eyes.

Mitchell Starc and the white ball. This romance is not for the faint of heart. And it was rekindled on Tuesday night. Right from practice, it looked like they were back together. The left-arm quick in his training gear was going full tilt and the guy with the baseball glove, standing behind a set of target stumps - those fluorescent ones made of pliant material - had trouble trying to keep up. So much pace. So much bounce. Something was brewing.

Soon it was game time and destiny itself weighed in favour of uniting Starc with his one true love straightaway (sorry Alyssa Healy). Sunrisers Hyderabad won the toss and chose to bat. Head took strike. Starc ran in. The ball beat the bat and crashed into his stumps. He'd just been dumped in front of over 75,000 people.

We should've known this was coming. It was a big game. He's Australian. And this is a World Cup year, which is partly why he's even playing this IPL, after skipping the last nine. Starc couldn't have known about the INR 24.75 crore (USD 2.99 million/ AU$ 4.4 million approx) that would come his way at the auction when he put his name back in the hat. Back then, all he cared about was the match practice, against the best of the best, leading into an ICC event.

At first, it didn't really go according to plan. He gave up 100 runs in eight overs. Then just 82 in 10 while picking up five wickets. Then it went bad again. 148 in 10 overs. Through it all Starc kept working. He trained as hard as he always does. He switched off when he needed to. He trusted in his skill.

Sometimes in T20 cricket, no matter how good you are, you will get hit. And the place where Starc kept getting hit (economy rate 11.61) was the place where all fast bowlers were getting hit (10.51). Eden Gardens. That will have helped him keep perspective, which is why he didn't see the need to change anything in the playoffs. He bowled a good length. He looked for swing. He found it. And he never let up. KKR spent 3/4th of their purse on him at the auction. It must feel so worth it right now.

Starc's two great strengths are his air speed and his accuracy. One makes him a threat even if there's no help available. The other makes him deadly if there's even the slightest bit of help. Ahmedabad fell into the second category, with one very important caveat. As the ball got older, it lost its shine and became easier to hit. That was on show with Sunrisers scoring 53 runs in the back half of the first 10 overs even though by then they'd lost four wickets. So the trick was to make the most of the early exchange and there are few better than Starc at this.

According to ESPNcricinfo's ball-by-ball data, 67.5% of the deliveries in his first over across his T20 career either threaten the stumps or the outside edge. There's a good chance of false shots under this kind of examination. Thirty-three percent as it turns out. In other words, two of the six balls he'll be starting the game with have significant wicket-taking potential.

Starc has 498 wickets in both formats of white-ball cricket. Three of those are Head's. One from now. Two from the Australian domestic one-day tournament in 2015. All of them were bowled, in the first over, for scores of 0, 1 and 0, with the exact same delivery. Angled in. Swinging away. At speeds that cause nosebleeds.

Seeing those stumps in disarray, Starc thrust his right hand up and peeled away to one side, creating another snapshot that was first seen nine years ago when he won a whole World Cup in the space of six balls. That was his best night, and this one, based on what happens in Chennai in a few days time, could still make the top 10. Imagine waking up an ODI World Cup, T20 World Cup, Test Championship, Ashes and IPL winner.