(Mehr Tarar is former Op-ed Editor, Daily Times, Pakistan)
When Indians - all 1,267,401,849 of them, give or take the few who think cricket exited the subcontinent with the British, and of course, Ram Gopal Verma - cheer for their team, the noise is enough to overwhelm the cheering 23,787,600 Australians - give or take the few who think their team has won a few too many World Cups for this final to be very exciting. The 55-45 (reportedly) Indian-Australian crowd at the Sydney stadium watched the 2015 World Cup Semi-Final with breaths that were bated, mannats that were promised, duas that were as intense as the gaalis were loud, and cheers as raucous as the boos. The stereotypical subcontinental response. Aussie supporters were mostly just loud.
Reportedly, many Pakistanis joined the blue cheering crowd in the stadium, in expression of their solidarity for a fellow South Asian (the sheer sentimentality of our reasoning is oxymoron-ically sweet. And short-lived) team. It could as well have been we-hate-Australia after Pakistan's March-20 quarterfinal debacle. Just thinking about that match gives me heebie-jeebies, ergo my hurry to quickly move on.
Honestly, I don't know how most cricket-viewing Pakistanis reacted to the India-Australia semifinal, which quite frankly became a damp squib after the huge Aussie inning. Ah, the sheer brilliance of the Australians. The magnificent method to their game. The palpable confidence - often correctly mistaken for arrogance - the precise shots, the immaculate fielding, the calculated bowling, the unhurried running, it's an absolute pleasure to watch the Aussies play. Any given day. Just not when the team being smashed to smithereens is mine. Or yours.
Back to March 26. Being unwell, and sleepless, I spent the entire day drifting in and out of a state of half-sleep, and in that twilight zone, I followed the match on Twitter. My cricket-viewing is regimented: I only watch the second inning. After getting twitter-harangued the day before by Pakistanis who tweet-shouted at me for announcing my support for the Indian team for the semi-final, I was suitably reassured by an equal number of my Pakistani tweeples of their support for India. To me it's simple: I'd support a South Asian team if it's pitted against a gori team. Call it the residue of outrage against colonialism, albeit the coloniser British exited the World Cup faster than Kim Kardashian posting a selfie.
There's another reason, a more acceptable one. I'm a huge, huge fan of that very, very talented captain of Indian team, MS Dhoni. No Indian captain, or for that matter any captain, has impressed me more in recent years. Nodding with me are millions of his fans in India, Pakistan and all cricket-playing countries. With eleven consecutive wins in World Cups, Dhoni's career is the dream of any hot-blooded captain, as he's led India to victory in all formats of cricket. Dhoni's captaincy is calm, confident and calculated, his batting abilities supreme, his wicket-keeping brilliant, and his attitude has all the hallmarks of great sportsmen: humble, humorous, courageous. Watching Dhoni bat is a treat, and I congratulate him and his team for their splendid wins in the World Cup. Until the semi-final that went to the team that was clearly better than the Indians.. Take a bow, guys, and that's all there's to that thing called cricket.
Now what was it that made me start writing this lazy Friday in Lahore? Ah, Pakistanis' reaction to the match and the defeat. Yep, there was the predictable guffaws and jeers that normally follow an Indian defeat (replace that with Pakistani and you get an almost identical reaction in India, right?). Despite having received an ignominious drubbing by the Aussies in the quarterfinal, many Pakistanis cheered for Australia against India. And before many chalk it up to the typical, expected behaviour from the "traditional rival", let me elaborate the two reasons that were partly responsible for the Pak-elicited booing for Team India: the ad and the hashtag. Yes. Those.
O the sheer teeli-lagana of that Star Sports Mauka Mauka ad. That cardboard of firecrackers, and that "kab phodenge" became the microcosm of Indians' assessment (not all ill-meant, of course...gotta believe that...you know for that aman ki asha and all) for the Pakistan team, already touted a weak team in the World Cup. The Pakistan team's March 15 defeat wouldn't have been that big a deal if the #Indianmedia had not tagged it the #RealFinal" (chuckle, chuckle...if only!) or the Indian tweeples and TV presenters had not mauka-mocked #TeamPakistan. Yes, we thought it was tacky, and we didn't share your sense of glee. So don't blame us for getting our mauka to mock your team on March 26 (Disclaimer: I was of the miniscule group that didn't use that mauka for mockery). You asked for it. Didn't ya? Right? No? Okay. Whatever.
And the nationalistic-cum-simplistic-cum-sentimental-cum-arrogant hashtag #WeWontGiveItBack. I mean, seriously? What are you? 12? A bunch of bullies daring a group of second-graders in a schoolyard? The #TeamBlue played splendid cricket, but it's the blah-cheering of the Indian tweeples egged on by the TRP-driven #TVchannels who hashtagged #Indianteam's #WorldCup outcome before the team even celebrated its #firstwin (yeah, yeah over the #TeamPakistan...yaad hai sab hamain). Hashtagging is cute. When you're 16. Or a PR wiz.
That hashtag spammed the twitter timelines of all cricket-viewers in Pakistan; that's the inevitable result of outpouring of tweets from a country of almost 18.1 twitter users. And it infuriated Pakistanis. Predictably. One, our team performed - to put it mildly - rather abysmally, while India won all its games. Two, to put the cherry on the cake- to rub salt in Pakistan's cricket wounds, the hashtag was like that annoying chuckle of that clown from It.
Taking this mauka, I congratulate Dhoni, his team, and India, on their magnificent performance. And I take this mauka to send a bigger shout-out to my team: there's always an another mauka, another world cup. Sigh, that ad follows me everywhere...
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