On Wednesday 30 March Pakistan plays India in the Cricket World Cup semi-final in the Indian city of Mohali in a match where more than pride and a place in the final are at stake.
The Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has invited his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani to attend and India has issued 5,000 visas for visiting fans. Spectators will face an unprecedented level of security at the ground and a TV audience of 100m or more is possible.
For decades cricket has provided an outlet for the fierce rivalry between India and Pakistan but in the last two years the teams have played each other less frequently than usual as matches have been cancelled due to fears of violence.
A planned tour by the Indian team to Pakistan early in 2009 was cancelled after the attacks in Mumbai in November 2008 in which over 170 people were killed.
Pakistan was also due to co-host the Cricket World Cup but following an attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team in Lahore in 2009 the International Cricket Council took the decision to reallocate their share of matches to the other hosts India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
On the pitch the match is an enticing prospect with the quality and variety of the Pakistan bowling attack (Umar Gul, Shahid Afridi, Abdul Razzaq, Mohammad Hafeez and others) up against India’s batting power (Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag and more). Both teams suffered defeats earlier in the tournament but looked impressive in their quarter-final victories.
Numerous opinion pieces have already been published about the prospects for cricket diplomacy (see for example Soutik Biswas at the BBC, Myra MacDonald at Reuters, S. Dinakar in The Hindu, and an editorial piece in Dawn). No doubt media reports of activity on and off the pitch on 30 March will go into exhaustive detail.
Amid all the hype about India v Pakistan it’s easy to forget that the winners will then face Sri Lanka or New Zealand in the final on 2 April.
Let us hope that any controversy is limited to activity on the field. Spare a thought for the umpires Simon Taufel and Ian Gould, whose performance will be scrutinised by tens of millions. This match provides ample justification of the need for video reviews as sanctioned by the Umpire Decision Review System.