Will Today’s Massive Cricket Match Solve The India-Pakistan Conflict? (Or Make It Worse?)

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As we write this, India and Pakistan are locked in a bitter war … over wickets.

The two nations are facing off in the semi-finals of the Cricket World Cup, with the winner being the presumptive favourite in Saturday’s final match.

It’s a game so big, that ESPN.com put Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar on its front page today, probably the only time you’ll see a cricket story get such a prominent placement.

And even though the countries are engaged in a heated regional rivalry as well, the prime ministers of India and Pakistan are watching the match together in the same box.

The two nations began diplomatic talks this week — scheduled before the teams learned they would be meeting on the pitch — and the invitation to watch together (extended by India’s Manmohan Singh) is seen as a hopeful sign for those wishing the two sides can find something to agree on.

Does “cricket diplomacy” work? Perhaps. If the game is played without controversy, it can become a moment of tremendous good will and sportsmanship. Even one prominent Indian intellectual is pulling for the Pakistanis to win.

And after the invitation was accepted Pakistan agreed to release an Indian prisoner and allowed a Indian officials to visit Pakistan for the first time as part of their investigation of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

However, if things go badly for one side — particularly if it involves bad officiating or allegations of cheating, as has been known to happen — the bad feeling will only get worse.

If you need help following along, check out our Beginner’s Guide To Cricket >>

UPDATE: India won the match by 30 runs. They’ll face Sri Lanka in the final on Saturday.