My video's funnier than yours: Pakistan, India trade parodies before Cup clash

ISLAMABAD — A video parodying an Indian air force pilot who was briefly captured by arch-rival Pakistan earlier this year has gone viral ahead of a highly-anticipated World Cup clash between the two cricket-mad nations.

The 33-second video shows an actor posing as handlebar-moustached Abhinandan Varthaman, who was shot down over the disputed region of Kashmir earlier this year and held briefly by Pakistan.

He was released in a "peace gesture" aimed at defusing tensions between the nuclear-armed South Asian neighbors, who have been fierce rivals since independence from Britain in 1947.

Before his release the Pakistani military aired a video showing Varthaman in custody, sipping tea and politely refusing to answer questions.

His politeness -- and praise of the "fantastic" tea -- saw him catapulted to hero status in India.

The latest video comes as mercurial Pakistan gear up to meet giants India at the World Cup in Manchester on Sunday.

The footage shows an actor with a moustache nearly as impressive as Varthaman's.

When asked: "What you are going to opt for after winning the toss? Who is in playing eleven?" he responds cordially with Varthaman's now-famous "I am not supposed to tell you that, sir".

At the end of the video, the pilot gets up to leave -- but the interrogator quickly asks him to "leave the cup", a clear reference to the trophy.

The video, shared hundreds of thousands of times on social media, ends with the hashtag #LetsBringTheCupHome.

It has provoked some ire in India, prompting a slightly more sinister video described as a "counter ad" depicting an Indian pulling a gun on a Pakistani before shooting his motorcycle tire and warning him not to cross Indian cricket fans.

Most received the pilot video with good humor, however.

"Let them keep the 'chai ka cup' only, we'll get the World Cup," tweeted Indian fan Mainak Mitra.

The latest videos follow a history of cheeky advertisements released in both India and Pakistan around big matches.

During the 2015 World Cup an Indian sports channel ran a famous "Moka Moka (Opportunity)" advertisement which mocked Pakistani fans for their team's inability to beat India at the World Cup.

In 2017, when Pakistan dramatically beat India in the final of the ICC Champions Trophy, another video showed Pakistanis handing tissues to Indian fans.

Some find the hype exasperating.

"It's only cricket for God sake," tweeted Indian tennis star Sania Mirza, who is married to Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik, after the most recent video.

Pakistan are currently in eighth position at the World Cup in England, where the final will be played July 14. India are third.

— Agence France-Presse

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