Combining ability studies with respect to grain yield, days to 50% earing, span of earing, days to maturity, plant height, ear length and grain size were carried out in a complete diallel cross of 12 pearl millet lines characterized by differences in downy mildew resistance and phytic acid content. The parents versus hybrids comparison indicated significant heterosis for all the traits under study. The relative proportions of the general and specific combining ability variances indicated a predominance of non-additive gene effects for the traits. The per se performance of parents was a good predictor of their general combining ability. The superior parents and crosses, on the basis of combining abilities and performance, were identified and a breeding strategy to exploit the available genetic variability is discussed.