Review Blog

Sep 19 2012

The Taliban Cricket Club by T. N. Murari

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Allen and Unwin, 2012. Pbk. 325p. ISBN 978-1-74237-804-6.
Under the Taliban, Kabul is a dangerous place for Rukhsana, a 23-year old journalist, sacked from her newspaper by the Minister for the propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. Like all her countrywomen, she is trapped in her house unless her Mahram, younger brother Jahan, accompanies her. She is also completely hidden by her Burka and she is trapped in Afghanistan, unable to leave to marry her fiance in America until her beloved mother's fatal illness plays out.
Her subversion takes the form of news items published in the foreign press about many of the human rights violations she witnesses - mostly against women. The feisty young journalist becomes the obsession of Zorak Wahidi himself after a press conference announcing a national cricket tournament. The winning team will be sent to Pakistan for training so that Afghanistan may succeed in their membership bid to the International Cricket Council. Jahan and his cousins view the tournament as their chance to flee tyranny, yet nobody in Kabul can play cricket - except Rukhsana who played at University in Dehli. Cricket becomes a metaphor for responsible citizenship - something lacking in the government. Rukhsana begins coaching with philosophy:
'Think of cricket as theatre . . . It's dramatic. It's about individual conflict . . . It's a relationship between the one and the many. The individual and the social, the leader and the follower, the individual and the universal.'
In order to teach her family, Rukhsana assumes the masculine disguise of Babur. She uses it to avoid Zorak's marriage proposal too but becomes conflicted by news of her American beau's marriage. Now she is free to marry her Dehli sweetheart but in reality, in more danger of becoming one of Zorak's wives. Will they win the tournament and escape?
The Taliban Cricket Club has a lovely tempo and purpose. The dutiful daughter, sister, friend, lover and citizen attempts to be true to herself in a brutal, sexist homeland. Young adults aware of their multicultural landscape would find this novel engaging. In Bollywood style, Rukhsana and the other characters are lacking in depth but this undemanding writing is delightful. Like Cricket, this is an unassuming narrative of worthy themes with the power to become legend in the style of Slum Dog Millionaire.
Deborah Robins

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