Posted by: Lisa Hill | July 17, 2013

The Taliban Cricket Club, by Timeri N Murari

The Taliban Cricket ClubI really enjoyed reading this book.  I think I might have read about it at The Asian Review of Books …

As their review says, sport and religion do occasionally mix, but surely the oddest example of that must be when  Afghanistan under the Taliban introduced cricket in an effort to soften its brutal international image.  This novel lampoons the initiative while also illustrating the tragedy of life under the Taliban and the reasons why the regime’s reputation is so richly deserved.

Rukhsana is a journalist, and the novel opens as she is summoned to attend at the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.  (It is this ministry which operates the Taliban version of the Vice Squad, specialising in whipping women for showing their ankles or daring to venture out-of-doors without a male escort).  Rukhsana is more than a little anxious about this summons because she’s been sailing close to the wind, covertly producing articles about the Taliban regime and getting them published internationally so that the world will realise what’s going on.

The slip of paper – what it said, and what it left unsaid – was a threat.  Why would he summon me?  What crime had I committed now?  Had I revealed my face, accidentally to a stranger?  Had I, accidentally, spoken out loud in a bazaar?  Had I, accidentally, revealed an ankle or a wrist? Who knew what rules were encircling us like serpents in a pit?

Or could it be that he had finally caught me doing what he had warned me never to do again.  As a journalist, to keep my sanity, I had to write about what I saw and heard going on around me.  But I had  taken extraordinary steps to remain anonymous, undetectable.  I filed my stories under a pseudonym, and never directly, with the Hindustan Times in Delhi.  I faxed them, when the line worked, to the home of a political columnist and friend of Father’s.  He banked my pay and made sure the desperately needed money reached me without raising suspicion.  I also contributed to the publications of RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, through a complex chain of contacts. (p. 4)

To Rukhsana’s astonishment the summons is to witness the announcement that Afghanistan is to conduct a cricket match to select a team of players to go to Pakistan for further training, so that Afghanistan can join the international community on the cricket pitch.  Bizarre, eh?

And why would a female – debarred from every kind of public activity, shrouded in a burka and forbidden to speak in public – be invited to this auspicious occasion?  Because the Minister, Zorak Wahidi, has developed an obsession for her, fuelled by the one occasion when he saw her face, on the day the regime took over and he threw her out of the Kabul Daily, slapping her repeatedly when her feisty nature rebelled and she dared to answer him back.

Rukhsana knows the fate of a woman married to a thug like him, and his proposal, delivered by his equally thug-like brother Droon, only fortifies her desire to get out of Afghanistan.  But she has commitments.  She has accepted that she can never marry the man she fell in love with when she was in Delhi because – for family honour – she has to marry the man she was betrothed to as a child.  Her mother is dying, and she also has responsibilities to her brother Jashan – she can’t possibly leave without him, and the cost of people smugglers for one person is prohibitive enough …

Cricket, of all things offers an escape route. Because Rukhsana played cricket really well, in Delhi when she was at university there.

You’ll have to read the book yourself to find out how the plot unfolds – don’t read the concluding chapters late at night, you won’t be able to turn the light out till you know what happens!

Author: Timuri N Murari
Title: The Taliban Cricket Club
Publisher: Allen and Unwin, 2012
ISBN: 9781742378848
Source: Personal library.

 

Availability

Fishpond: The Taliban Cricket Club


Responses

  1. Great review, Lisa. There is much to be learned from the reign of the Taliban and its implications for Afghanistan and the rest of the world. This book and others like The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaleed Husseini are truly eye openers. I should very much like to read this.

    Thanks for sharing :-)

  2. This sounds like a great read — and so different from anything I’m familiar with. Do I need to understand the game of cricket to enjoy the story?

  3. That sounds wonderful. I just added it to my Goodreads list. I think it might be a good book to read in conjunction with “The Legend of Pradeep Mathew” by Shehan Karunatilaka (published under the title “The Chinaman” in the UK) – another book on Cricket that I’ve been dying to read.

    Thanks for the recommendation!

    • The Taliban Cricket Club is more earnest but they would be great companions. I read Chinaman too (http://wp.me/phTIP-5T4) – it has a different title in non-cricket playing nations because although in the UK where a ‘chinaman’ is a *bowling action* you have to know about cricket to know that and not assume that the title is racist.

  4. Hello Lisa and fellow readers,
    I enjoyed reading this review. I watched a brief interview with the author Timeri N Murari on youtube. I have a lengthly reading list for fall 2013. I will add Murari’s novel to my Winter 2013-14 reading list. Kudos Lisa!!!
    Sonia

    • Thanks Sonia, I’ll look forward to reading what you think of it too.
      BTW the home page on your blog seems to have vanished, I got an error message when I clicked your link.


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