"It's fascinating what sports can do. I can take you to 30 or more years back when a ping-pong match between the US and China led to a discussion which resulted in the kind of relationship we have with China today," Powell told state-owned Doordarshan television during a visit to India.
The comments came as hosts Pakistan defeated India by 12 runs in the second One-day International to level the five-match series 1-1.
Frosty Sino-US relations saw an upturn in 1971 when communist China's founder Mao Zedong invited the US team for a table tennis tournament between the two countries, which did not have diplomatic relations.
The "ping-pong diplomacy" paved the way for Nixon's breakthrough visit to China a year later.
"When people can come together and travel to each other's countries to watch a conflict being played out on the field of sport as opposed to the field of battle and you see the people appreciate the other side, their talent, then why can't the same philosophy and spirit impact other aspects and normalise the relations?" Powell said.
"And let that be a hope. Let cricket influence the composite dialogue between the two countries," Powell said of India and Pakistan, who on Saturday began their first full cricketing tour after almost 15 years amid thawing ties.
The Indians will be touring Pakistan for the next month playing three more One-day Internationals and three Test matches. Earlier on Tuesday, Powell called for a "permanent" end to the infiltration of Islamic rebels in disputed Kashmir to boost the peace process between the two nuclear-armed rivals.
Powell said cross-border movement "has gone down considerably" amid the peace drive, which coincides with Kashmir's harsh winter. "We will be watching that it stays that way," Powell said.
"I think it is important that this kind of activity is not only for the winter season but has to be more permanent," Powell said, adding that he would discuss the issue with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.
"There were eight baskets to the comprehensive dialogue (between India and Pakistan) and one essential element is that there should be an end to cross-border violence," Powell said.
India alleges that Pakistan has armed and funded Islamic guerrillas and helped them sneak across the de facto border in Kashmir to wage a rebellion against Indian rule in its zone of the Himalayan territory.
Pakistan pledged in a January joint statement with India that its territory would not be used as a springboard for "terrorism."
India and Pakistan, which have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir since Independence in 1947, resumed dialogue in February to try to douse animosities that nearly led to a fourth war in 2002.
Despite the progress, the two sides became embroiled in a diplomatic tiff over the talks when India objected to weekend comments by Musharraf in which he said the 56-year-old dispute over Kashmir was at the core of the discussions. India insists that Kashmir is just one issue to be dealt with.
One more thriller; This time Pak the winner