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 India’s Vice President Mohammed Hamid Ansari visited Armenia recently to celebrate 25 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
 
read-more
The US has slammed Pakistan for failing to crackdown on terror groups operating from "safe havens" inside its territory, and said the Nawaz Sharif government did not take any action against the LeT and JeM, which continue to operate openly.
 
read-more
In dispatching its  PLA (Peoples Liberation Army)  marines to Djibuti in the Horn of Africa on Wednesday (July 12 ) by amphibious ships, from the southern port of Zhanjiang, China has taken a significant step in enhancing its  trans-border military footprint.
 
read-more
It is becoming increasingly obvious that China is experiencing a sort of superiority obsession, imagining it can dominate and conquer the world. Several Chinese acts in the recent past indicate such an attitude. Asian nations, which are now apprehensive about China’s aggressive postures, are unclear how matters will shape up.
 
read-more
It is appalling to see how the struggle for self-determination in Kashmir has been reduced to bitter recriminations between Pakistan and India.
 
read-more
As Aadhaar becomes the norm in India, and gets skewered for the involuntary nature of its imposition, our northern neighbours, as is their wont, want to do a number that will make this appear benign.
 
read-more
South Asia is situated in a strategically important location and has always been bone of a contention for control by major powers.
 
read-more
It was just at the end of spring that the unquiet American President was talking big about being the man who can seal the deal on Israeli-Palestinian peace.
 
read-more
S.T. Lee Distinguished Lecture of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Singapore on "India, ASEAN and Changing Geopolitics”
 
read-more
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.

 
Column-image

Humans have long had a fear of malignant supernatural beings but there may be times when even the latter cannot compare with the sheer evil and destructiveness mortals may be capable of. But then seeking to enable the end of the world due to it...

 
Column-image

Title: Reporting Pakistan; Author: Meena Menon; Publisher: Viking/Penguin Random House; Pages: 340; Price: Rs 599

 
Subscribe to our newsletter
Archive