The danger's not over, of course. "It could be disastrous if Pakistan wins," says TIME New Delhi correspondent Maseeh Rahman. So passionate are India's cricket supporters that when their team was losing a World Cup clash with Sri Lanka two years ago, fans rioted for hours and stopped the match. Not surprisingly, says Rahman, "a lot of people are hoping that this time both matches will be tied."
They may be permanently on the brink of war, but that won't stop India and Pakistan from a gentlemanly game of cricket. India's government averted a national crisis Thursday by reining in Hindu nationalists who'd planned to disrupt the series against Pakistan. Angry public response to two weeks of violent agitation against the series by the virulently anti-Muslim Shiv Sena party -- a partner in the governing coalition -- had left Prime Minister Vajpayee batting on a sticky wicket. Vajpayee leaned heavily on the Shiv Sena, who grudgingly backed down Thursday for the good of the coalition hours before the Pakistanis arrived.