KARACHI: It was back in 2011 in the semi-final in Mohali that India defeated Pakistan by 29 runs to win their fifth consecutive match over their arch-rivals in the World Cup. The Indians went on to win the World Cup, much to the disdain of the Pakistani supporters who blamed the unfortunate Misbahul Haq and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for falling short of gaining the honour the team had once lifted back in 1992.
Well that became old news once the draws of the 2015 World Cup were announced and the roster read that both Pakistan and India would kick-off their campaign against each other on February 15.
It was quite exhilarating to experience the excitement that the news of this explosive fixture stirred in the hearts of a billion plus individuals in the subcontinent. Fans started counting the days down to February 15 when the titans of Asia would clash. Many even started to arrange for new television sets, while many had to face the wrath of their female partners when, for the first time, February 15 was a more important date in the calendar than the day before.
As we entered the shortest month of the year, the excitement reached unprecedented levels as supporters from both countries – which in the case of Pakistan and India is every single individual – geared up for the epic clash and it was then in the first week of the month that Star Sports pulled off a marketing masterstroke and launched its #WeWontGiveItBack campaign, featuring the now-fabled ‘Mauka-Man’ to add fuel to the already strong fire in the hearts of the subcontinental occupants.
If it was game on before, it certainly was GAME ON now!
Suddenly the rivalry took a completely new level as the media on both sides of the border went in a frenzy to discuss the moralities and ethics of launching such a campaign. The Indians – obviously – supported the campaign, while the Pakistanis ran afoul and used every possible media front to oppose the campaign which had evoked the emotions of more than half a million in just the first few days of its launch.
Everyone on both sides of the border got involved and the social media in India and Pakistan had nothing else to offer except for the reactions to this campaign.
Many started making sweeping statements, while others resorted to the meaningless, yet predictable, dialogues of how one nation is better than the other.
Regardless of the opinions of the masses, one thing was certain – the ‘Mauka Mauka’ campaign had successfully ignited a ‘healthy’ sporting rivalry in the most subtle way as possible.
That exactly was the genius of it.
In an era where it is quite easy to predict the World Cup campaigns such as the ones launched by the telecommunication, confectionary and cola brands, this campaign stood out exceptionally well and can arguably be termed as the best World Cup campaign to date.
With over an accumulated three million views on Youtube and immeasurable impressions, both on the traditional and social media, the campaign brought out the naivety of the supporters and forced them to unwillingly unite on the same front and kindled an unmatched yearning to show who’s boss.
It is quite pertinent to highlight here that the campaign was not the official stance of the Board of Cricket and Control in India (BCCI) or the Indian team – something which the average Pakistani is unwilling to accept – and thus had no relation to MS Dhoni’s men and was made as a pure marketing stunt by Star Sports.
What ensued on the field was mutually exclusive of what was being done to generate the buzz and excitement preceding cricket’s biggest event.
Many would argue that the defendant – Star Sports – should have taken into consideration the feelings of the average Pakistani and should have refrained from using this stance, but the question, as validly pointed by my colleague Emmad Hameed, is whether the campaign used any derogatory stance against the Pakistani nation or whether it simply utilised the fact that India has simply swept the men in green every time it has come across its neighbour in the World Cup?
Sporting rivalries certainly do spark a do-or-die notion and what would the point of sport be if it does not ignite this particular emotion. It makes the sport even more beautiful and animated.
That being said, the rivalry is supposed to start on the pitch and is supposed to end there and then. It certainly does not literally require supporters to be violent or agitated and instead asks for a healthy competition as that is the thing in sport that excites us the most.
From this point of view doesn’t the Mauka Mauka campaign boast its dominance over all other competing campaigns? Do we even remember any other campaign? Wasn’t it exceptionally successful in igniting the biggest sporting rivalry and taking it to a level unimagined by any?
The fact that India’s exit from the World Cup was welcomed with both hands in Pakistan and all media fronts responded by waving the ‘Mauka Mauka’ flag in the face of the Indians proves that it certainly was able to achieve its target.
Thus rather than taking the campaign to heart and looking at it from a demeaning point-of-view, it should be given the due credit that it deserves. Fine, it was aimed at Pakistan but who else would it be aimed at if not us? Would the Australians mock South Africa for the Ashes or would they mock England?
That’s not how sporting rivalries work. There always has to be a David and there always has to be a Goliath and sadly this time the David lost, but that doesn’t mean it will not rise again.
In a nutshell, the ‘Mauka Mauka’ campaign was simply a work of art and should be taken in for the purpose it was intended for, rather than what meaning is being taken out of it or is being shoved in our faces.
India, we will once again look forward for an opportunity to defeat you on the pitch in a World Cup and should the day arrive when we actually make it 6-1, we will be more than happy to rub the ‘Mauka Mauka’ innuendo in your face the way it was intended – a healthy on-the-pitch sporting rivalry.
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