A file photo of the India-Pakistan match in Dubai last year. (AFP)
A file photo of the India-Pakistan match in Dubai last year. (AFP)

India-Pakistan ad war heats up ahead of Old Trafford face-off on Sunday

  • A Pakistani TV channel ad, which features a character impersonating wing commander Abhinandan Varthaman, has taken the internet by storm
  • While the India-Pakistan clash is not a decisive game, it is arguably the tournament’s biggest event

NEW DELHI: The war between India and Pakistan is hotting up—that’s the ad war in the run-up to their much-awaited World Cup tie.

Ahead of Sunday’s match—guaranteed to put the two nations to a standstill—a video, purportedly put out by Pakistani channel called Jazz TV, has taken the internet by storm.

The light-hearted ad features a character impersonating wing commander Abhinandan Varthaman, the Indian Air Force pilot who was captured, briefly held and then released after his plane was downed by the Pakistanis in February.

The character in the 33-second clip sports the pilot’s signature handlebar moustache and is dressed in the Indian cricket team’s blue. He is shown sipping from a cup of tea—much as the real-life Varthaman did in a video released by the Pakistani military.

In the TV ad, a voice in the background—presumably the interrogator—is heard asking what India would do if it won the toss. “I’m sorry I’m not supposed to tell you that sir," says the actor with a blacked-up face. It goes on to ask what India’s team composition would be. One again, the protagonist, putting on a fake South Indian accent says, “I am not supposed to tell you this," in much the same way the Indian Air Force pilot had responded when Pakistani military officers questioned him about his mission.

The interrogator is then heard asking him, “How is the tea?" Again, that’s a copy of how the real interrogation played out. The actor says: “Tea is really fantastic."

“Achha chalo, you can leave," the voice in the video says. But as the small screen Varthaman gets up to leave, the voice interrupts: “Ek second ruko! Cup kahan leke ja rahe ho (where do you think you’re taking the cup)?"

In India, Star TV has been playing an ad where an Indian supporter, in a not-so-subtle reference to subcontinental power play, describes himself as Pakistan’s “abbu" or father.

Tension has been running high between India and Pakistan since the 14 February suicide attack in Kashmir’s Pulwama region which killed 40 CRPF personnel.

While the India-Pakistan clash is not a decisive game, it is arguably the tournament’s biggest event.

The match at the Old Trafford in Manchester is set to be attended by thousands of Indian and Pakistani fans.

With passions running high, security will be tight to ensure that friendly rivalry on the field does not turn ugly. India starts out as the pre-tournament favourites, along with England.

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