If Star Sports is to be believed; there is another India-Pakistan war about to break out. The sirens are blaring in every commercial break and experts are branding this as the mother of all clashes--a battle to end the war, a victory to seal India's position as a superpower, a final solution to the vexed India-Pakistan question.
Now before I am burnt at the stake for supporting the 'enemy' and my nationality, religion, ancestry, parenting, political inclinations and terrorist links are questioned, I would like to proclaim myself as a cricket loving Indian who would like to see some top quality cricket being played in this World Cup, regardless of India winning or losing. But why would a good Hindu Brahmin have such seditious thoughts, many would ask.
How dare an 'Indian' support any other team (let alone Pakistan!) and not Apna Bharat Mahaan? Pack me off to Islamabad on the next PIA flight if you will, but do allow me to explain why I want Pakistan to win against India during their sixth world cup face-off.
My support has nothing to do with Pakistan's batting lineup or the lack of the same in India's bowling department; the issue is with the way the sport of cricket is being pimped to rouse national passions so that every 10 seconds, twenty-five lakh rupees of advertising revenue may be mopped up from sponsors who want to bare their wares--from condoms to cars--in front of millions of cricket-hazed fans.
To drive viewership even further, Star Sports has been promoting the #wontgiveitback campaign with religious zeal. You could be forgiven to think that it's a bunch of Pakistani protestors talking about not giving back Kashmir to India. Fans are being encouraged to think that the World Cup belongs to India and not the best cricket playing nation. Add to this mix is Amitabh Bachchan lending his voice in the commentary box--explaining to us the intricacies of the Leg Glance and the historical performance of each player (Or does that even matter when you have such a baritone?)
This is not cricket, is this is a multimillion dollar Truman Show, where everyone is in and YOU are the complicit partner and you aren't even aware of it. Of course it's all a coincidence that the first big match of the World Cup is an India-Pakistan encounter and that it falls on a Sunday where most people will have nothing more urgent to do, that the hoopla being built around the game is just innocent fun.
So much fun that the Prime Minister took time off his busy schedule and wrote a tweet to each player individually wishing them success. A good show by India no doubt will reflect on how well his government has been performing! This is cricket season and everyone wants to ride the Vengabus. Thankfully there is no Modi-Nawaz meeting slated during the match--otherwise diplomacy off the field has become an integral part of India-Pak match optics.
It's just the first match of the world cup, the outcome won't even determine the future of both teams in this world cup--but it's already being billed as the final. Star Sports has been pulling out every India-Pak match from the archives and playing it on endless loop (more advertising money). You can even tag your tweets #IndWins and #PakWins (still more traction on social media). Ads have been made--showing a poor Pakistani fan--waiting to celebrate a Pakistan world cup win against India since 1992, asking viewers to tune in or miss out this mega event. (Still more advertising money!)
Never mind the fact that Pakistani cricket fans have been appalled by the advertisement that mocks them; this sort of marketing gimmick builds a mythical halo of invincibility around India, turning a fortuitous statistic into a god given right of India to beat Pakistan in every world cup encounter. Sooner or later the law of probability will catch up and there will be hell to pay for the losing Indian team. The sledging, mind games and quotes against each other's teams have already started between team India and Pakistan. It won't get any pretty on the field either.
So while this encounter is still being played on a Sunday, it's been far removed from its gentlemanly laid-back moorings. It's all about the enmity, revenge, mega viewership and money now. A loss to Pakistan will knock some sense into out cricket drugged brains, that sometimes in cricket you have to #GiveTheCupBack, sometimes you have to respect a talented opponent, sometimes passion for the game can override your nationalistic zeal....because defeating Pakistan in a game is ultimately just that.
I support Pakistan so that cricket becomes cricket again--not another India-Pakistan war where losing is simply not an option.