For Sania Mirza, the Indian tennis star married to Pakistan cricketer Shoaib Malik, it has all been too much.
Fed up with the jingoism ahead of the India-Pakistan World Cup game in Manchester on Sunday, she tweeted: ‘Seriously guys, you don’t need to hype up or market the match anymore specially with rubbish! It has ENOUGH attention already! It’s only cricket for God sake, and if you think it’s any more than that then get a grip or get a life!!’
As a Muslim sportswoman in a country increasingly in thrall to Hindu nationalism, Mirza is more attuned than most to the the Indo-Pak dynamic. And that dynamic has taken a turn for the provocative in the build-up to this game.
Great rivals Sarfaraz Ahmed (right) and India's Virat Kohli (left) will clash in Manchester
Tensions are always high when the countries meet at cricket, which — for political reasons — they do these days only at global tournaments or the Asia Cup.
But the stakes were raised further when an attack in February on Indian-administered Kashmir by Pakistan-based militants left 40 Indian paramilitaries dead, inflaming popular anger and renewing long-held fears of a nuclear showdown.
Since war has not yet broken out, the cricket will have to do. And Sunday’s match has given TV executives on both sides of the border the excuse they needed.
In one Pakistani ad, an actor plays the Indian pilot who was shot down during retaliatory attacks for the February bombings and famously interviewed by Pakistan’s authorities while sipping tea.
Sarfaraz pictured in action during Pakistan's victory over England at Trent Bridge this month
Told he is free to go, he prepares to walk off with his drink, which becomes a symbol for the World Cup when he is asked: ‘Where do you think you are taking the cup?’
In India, meanwhile, a Star TV commercial depicts an Indian fan describing himself as Pakistan’s ‘abbu’ (father). The reference to history, and the 1947 partition of the two countries following the departure of the British, is deliberate — as Mirza understood.
For a while, the Kashmir attacks threatened to have direct consequences for the World Cup itself. The BCCI, the all-powerful Indian board, issued a statement urging the global game to ‘sever ties with countries from which terrorism emanates’. There was