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
 
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
India is not participating in the conference on negotiations for a total ban on nuclear weapons. India was expected later this week to issue a comprehensive statement at the United Nations laying out its stance on the meeting that is officially called the Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons,
 
read-more
Therefore, there is an urgent need for the Modi government to re-define its “Make in India” policy so that India can beat China in its own game and get rid of perennial trade deficits writes Susmit Kumar
 
read-more
 India should not hesitate in using both overt and covert means to bring its policies to successful fruition. Indian policy makers must be guided by the dictum that there is no permanent friend or enemy but only permanent interests, writes Adarsh Singh for South Asia Monitor.
 
read-more
Society for Policy Studies in association with India Habitat Centre invites you to a lecture in the Changing Asia Series by by Prof. K. Srinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation of India on Health And Development: India Must Bridge The Disconnect Chair: C Uday Bhaskar, Director, Soci...
 
read-more
spotlight image Shaida Mohammad Abdali is the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to India since 2012 and the non-resident  Afghan Ambassador to Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal.
 
read-more
In Dutch politics, alliances are imperative to construct an administration. The post-election government formation is, therefore, a slightly time-consuming process. In due course, a coalition led by the incumbent Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, will surface.  
 
read-more
Japan is a special country in several ways. For centuries, it remained isolated and disconnected with the outside world. But once it opened itself up to the West with the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854 by the use of force by Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry of the United States Navy, Japan has never looked back. Japan is a spe
 
read-more
Recently, under the leadership of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, and earlier under the late Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdallah bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia has rolled out a series of women-friendly initiatives.  Recently, under the leadership of Custodian of the
 
read-more
spotlight image It is time for India to undertake a comprehensive review of its nuclear doctrine and kill the unnecessary speculation
 
read-more
Column-image

Over the Years, a collection of 106 short articles, offers us interesting sidelights on the currents and cross- currents in the public life of India during two distinctive periods: (I) 1987 to 1991 and (II ) 2010 to the present.

 
Column-image

India remians the inflexible bête-noir for Pakistan, yet there are few books by Indian authors that have sought to interpret the prodigal neighbour in a holistic, informed and empathetic manner.

 
Column-image

The line that Mortimer Durand drew across a small map in 1893 has bled the Pashtun heart ever since. More than a century later both sides of that line remain restless. But the mystery behind what actually happened on 12 November 1893 has never ...

 
Column-image

What went wrong for the West in Afghanistan? Why couldn't a global coalition led by the world's preeminent military and economic power defeat "a bunch of farmers in plastic sandals on dirt bikes" in a conflict that outlasted b...

 
Column-image

What will be Pakistan's fate? Acts of commission or omission by itself, in/by neighbours, and superpowers far and near have led the nuclear-armed country at a strategic Asian crossroads to emerge as a serious regional and global concern whi...

 
Subscribe to our newsletter
Archive