Timeri N Murari has more than 14 published novels to his credit including many bestsellers. He has also written screenplays for various movies and plays. Truth be told, I wasn’t aware of his pedigree when I picked up The Taliban Cricket Club. Instead, I was quite intrigued at reading about cricket in a country which has suffered from wars for years on end. Moreover, the story of the Afghanistan Cricket Team has been a true fairytale even among those who don’t really follow cricket. Is the book as good as it sounds? Let’s check it out.
The blurb goes like this –
Kabul, under the Taliban is a terrifying place. Rukhsana, a brave young journalist, is desperate to flee the city but she has an ailing mother and a younger brother to think of. Then, one day, she is called to the Ministry for the Propogation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice to meet its head, the notorious Zorak Wahidi. He tells her that the winning team of a cricket tournament that he is organizing will be sent to Pakistan for training to prepare for an international level match.
In reality, the idea is ludicrous. The Taliban will never embrace a game rooted in civility, fairness, and equality. And no one in Afghanistan knows how to play cricket, except Rukhsana. She learnt it in Delhi where she fell in love, despite her commitment to an arranged marriage in Kabul. The tournament offers hope – a means of escape for her brother and young cousins. For Rukhsana, there’s a greater stake to escape – Wahidi wants to marry her, a truly frightening proposition.
So Rukhsana starts to work on a daring plan that might just give them all the escape route they so desperately crave. The Taliban Cricket Club is a novel that celebrates courage, love and the power of the human spirit.
The book has quite a unique cover depicting two women in burkhas and a little girl walking along with them. It surely gives a sneak peek on what to look forward to. Rupa Publications have done a good job as always with the quality of the paper and the font of the text.
There have been numerous books which have spoken about life under the Taliban. And in that aspect, this one doesn’t offer anything really different. Where its different is in the overall presentation and the intermingling of sports which brings smiles on faces of those who have suffered over the years. The story moves through the eyes of Ruksana, a young Afghani girl who lives through the troubled times of the Taliban rule day in and day out. Whether its seeing people get executed or losing her freedom to go out alone, listen to music and anything else, she longs to escape the country far away from such rules and regulations. But is it that easy? Will she be killed? Will her family suffer the same fate as numerous others have over the years?
Sports has always been regarded as the best way to promote peace across the world. And here, Timeri brings in cricket into the story. It’s a character in itself. He takes us through all the processes by which a group of individuals who didn’t know anything about cricket start learning the nuances of the game.
The book is fast paced and gripping almost throughout its 325 pages. There are no unnecessary sequences or characters which act as roadblocks in the story.
The book is written more like a Bollywood story rather than a piece of literature. While Timeri may have intended to appeal to all strata of the society by this style, a lot of so called creative liberties are thrown in which become difficult to keep track of as we move on. The climax in particular seems rushed.
The mood of the story is also quite depressing and gloomy for most parts. Moreover, being a cricket fan, I was quite disappointed at the way the cricket sequences were described. It surely could have been better.
All in all, a decent one – time read for those looking for something different.
Rating – 3/5
Linking to NaBloPoMo (National Blog Post Month – July – My post no 4 for this month.