FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
The Taliban Cricket Club
Posted:Jul 4, 2012
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Book: The Taliban Cricket Club

Author: Timeri N. Murari

Publisher: Aleph

Pages: 325

Price: Rs 595

For journalists who covered Afghanistan through all its recent bloody upheavals — the Soviet invasion to the tyrannical Taliban reign and the birth of the Hamid Karzai government — the most visible impact was on Afghan society, particularly its women. The transformation from independent individuals to shadowy, subservient non-persons invisible under their burqas, thanks to the Taliban’s repressive Sharia rule between 1996 and 2001, was one of the most tragic episodes in the country’s tumultuous history.

The Taliban also banned all outdoor sports as unIslamic. But in 2000, they allowed men to play cricket, seen as a means to gain some international acceptance. Cricket was selected because its dress code involves outfits that cover the entire body. That decision, quirky and anachronistic, has inspired author and filmmaker Timeri Murari to weave a web of fiction around it.

The Taliban Cricket Club uses the game as a metaphor for courage and determination in the face of daunting odds. It is a reminder of the tyranny that extremist interpretations of religion can unleash and what it does to the people exposed to it. Under all brutal regimes, there are shadowy rebellions, and this book revolves around one which, with a clever twist, happens to be spearheaded by a woman. There are scenes reminiscent of Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. It also has shades of the movie Lagaan, in which villagers learn an alien sport, cricket, to defeat a colonial team during the British Raj. Murari does much the same but adds a love affair to embellish his tale — one between Rukhsana and Veer, a Hindu from Delhi. It adds the required suspense — exposure would be punishable by death — and leads to a surprise twist to the ending.

Murari is an accomplished writer with 12 works of fiction behind him, but in this one, he seems to have raised the bar. Rukhsana’s grit and defiance in the face of brutality and repression are offset by insights into Kabul life and Afghan society, and her complicated love story is set against an arranged marriage and cricket as a means of escape. The escape is also from the Taliban leader who wants to marry her and a chance to find happiness in the arms of her long-distance lover in Delhi, the young man who taught her to play cricket when her diplomat father was posted there.

It is a many-layered story that is well-crafted, using family, romance, cultural norms, religious extremism and a daring plan based on a ludicrous cricket tourney to keep the reader engrossed. Murari’s cricketing metaphor underlines the plot, with Rukhsana disguising herself as a male, complete with false beard, to coach a team of her cousins, none of whom knows anything about the game, so that they win the tournament and the prize — a sponsored trip to Pakistan for training; in reality, a means of escape to the West and,in her case, India.

Murari has been a journalist in the UK and the US before he switched to writing historical fiction, and he uses that to great effect. He visited Kabul to gather research and interview families and victims and it reflects in the style and plot, which, like any good investigative story, builds characters, identifies villains and victims as well as reveals a larger truth. What brings it all together is cricket, as theatre and drama, where individual skill and leadership is measured against the team’s profile and unified image. Murari builds the suspense and denouement with considerable skill and also uses his background as a writer of historical novels — Taj being his best known — to remind us of a society’s struggle against an oppressive reign.

This is clearly written for a wider audience since the main handicap in the book are the minute details it gives about cricket, how it is played and the rules and regulations, which are irksome to an Indian reader. The danger is that an audience that has little knowledge of cricket may miss the subtle symbolism and metaphorical references, all to do with cricket, its status as a gentleman’s game, one which demands fair play and is conducted in a democratic format — everything that is counter to the Taliban’s distorted world view.

Ironically, the result of the Taliban decision was positive: Afghanistan’s cricket team took part in the 2010 World Cup, the first Afghan team to play a world cup in any sport.

The Indian Express, 3 July 2012

Reviewer: Dilip Bobb

 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Disclaimer: South Asia Monitor does not accept responsibility for the views or ideology expressed in any article, signed or unsigned, which appears on its site. What it does accept is responsibility for giving it a chance to appear and enter the public discourse.
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
spotlight image Ties between India and Japan are probably at their best ever, Japanese Ambassador to India H.E. Kenji Hiramatsu told India Review & Analysis’ Nilova Roy Chaudhury, as he outlined how the two countries have moved closer. Ahead of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit
 
read-more
India's External Affairs Minister met with Prime Ministers Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh and Tshering Tobgay of Bhutan and five foreign ministers on September 19 in interactions that mostly focused on bilateral issues.
 
read-more
That regional cooperation in South Asia is lower than optimal levels is well accepted. It is usually ascribed to – the asymmetry in size between India and the rest, conflicts and historical political tensions, a trust deficit, limited transport connectivity, and onerous logistics, among many other factors.
 
read-more
Former Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Raghuram Rajan said ‘In order to become a more developed country, India has to get people who owe taxes to actually pay them.’ This is one of the major objectives that Modi sought to achieve though demonetization and he has largely succeeded.
 
read-more
The two-day visit to Kashmir by a Congress team headed by Dr Manmohan Singh team has called for restoration  of the dialogue with the separatists to address the ongoing turmoil in the state.
 
read-more
The Communist Party of China (CPC) is expected to amend its constitution at the upcoming national congress.
 
read-more
Médecins Sans Frontiéres (MSF) or Doctors Without Borders has urged Myanmar to grant international humanitarian organisations unrestricted and independent access to the conflict-torn Rakhine state to enable provision of humanitarian assistance to the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people.
 
read-more
In an unprecedented warning delivered at a world forum, United States President Donald Trump on September 19 threatened North Korea with total destruction if his country is forced to defend itself and its allies against the threats from Pyongyang.
 
read-more
It is a privilege to be invited to this most prestigious of law schools in the country, more so for someone not formally lettered in the discipline of law. I thank the Director and the faculty for this honour.
 
read-more
Column-image

Title: A Bonsai Tree; Author: Narendra Luther; Publisher: Niyogi Books; Pages: 227 Many books have been written on India's partition but here is a firsthand account of the horror by a migrant from what is now Pakistan, who ...

 
Column-image

As talk of war and violence -- all that Mahatma Gandhi stood against -- gains prominence across the world, a Gandhian scholar has urged that the teachings of the apostle of non-violence be taken to the classroom.

 
Column-image

Interview with Hudson Institute’s Aparna Pande, whose book From Chanakya to Modi: Evolution of India’s Foreign Policy, was released on June 17.

 
Column-image

This is the continuing amazing spiritual journey of a Muslim man from Kerala who plunged into Vedic religion after a chance encounter with a Hindu mystic under a jackfruit tree in the backyard of his house when he was just nine. It is a story w...

 
Column-image

History is told by the victors but in our modern age, even contemporary events get - or are given - a slant, where some contributors soon get eclipsed from the narrative or their images tarnished.

 
Subscribe to our newsletter
Archive