The Taliban Cricket Club: A Novel

The Taliban Cricket Club: A Novel

by Timeri N. Murari
     
 

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Rukhsana is a spirited young journalist who works for the Kabul Daily in Afghanistan. She takes care of her ill, widowed mother and her younger brother, Jahan. But then Rukhsana is summoned to appear at the infamous Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, and their quiet and tenuous way of life is shattered.

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Overview

Rukhsana is a spirited young journalist who works for the Kabul Daily in Afghanistan. She takes care of her ill, widowed mother and her younger brother, Jahan. But then Rukhsana is summoned to appear at the infamous Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, and their quiet and tenuous way of life is shattered.

There, the malevolent minister, Zorak Wahidi, announces that the Taliban has found a new way to pursue the diplomatic respect it has long been denied: cricket. On the world stage of sports, the Taliban will prove they are a fair and just society. Rukhsana and several other journalists are to report that a tournament will be held to determine who will play for Afghanistan. Anyone can put together a team. Women are forbidden to play. The winners will travel to Pakistan to train, then go on to represent Afghanistan around the world.

Rukhsana knows that this is a shameful, and deeply surreal, idea. The Taliban will never embrace a game rooted in civility, fairness, and equality, with no tolerance for violence or cheating. And no one in Afghanistan even knows how to play the game.

Except for Rukhsana.

This could be a way to get her cousins and her brother out of Afghanistan for good. But before she can organize a team, the terrifying Wahidi demands her hand in marriage. He finds her both exciting and infuriating, and wants to control her unruly, willful nature. The union would be her prison, stripping away what few freedoms she has left under Taliban rule and forcing her away from her family. Not marrying Wahidi, however, might mean her death. Her family rallies around her, willing to do anything to protect her, even if it means imprisonment or worse.

But Rukhsana realizes that Wahidi may have given her a way out, too. With the help of her loyal, beloved brother and cousins, she forms her own cricket team and sets about teaching them how to win their freedom—with a bat and a ball.

Inspired by the Taliban's actual and unprecedented promotion of cricket in 2000 in an attempt to gain acceptance in the global community, internationally bestselling author Murari weaves a riveting story of strength, hope, and soaring human triumph that proves no tyranny is ever absolute in the face of love.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Murari's newest (after Taj) is set in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2000, and tells the harrowing tale of an educated young newspaperwoman during the Taliban's rule, when "Women must be seen only in the home and in the grave." Rukhsana supports her dying widowed mother and teenaged brother by writing stories secreted outside the country and published pseudonymously. But Rukhsana fears her journalistic cover is blown when summoned by Zorak Wahidi, head of the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. He wants journalists to promote a cricket tournament in a misguided bid to win diplomatic accolades for the Taliban. Though woman are not allowed to compete, Rukhsana played cricket at college in India, and so disguises herself as a man to coach her brother and cousins in order to get them out of Afghanistan. But when Wahidi asks for Rukhsana's hand in marriage, she must navigate dangerous social territory in an effort to remain free, and stay alive. Murari's storytelling works best when exploring the daily horrors of Taliban rule, but is less successful in elucidating Rukhsana's conflicted loyalties. Though descriptions of the wildly popular game can be dull, a thrilling climax and atypical story line (one that has roots in real life—the Taliban really did try to put together a cricket team in 2000) make this well worth a read. Fans of Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns will be especially pleased . (May 15)
National Geographic Traveler
“An engaging new novel. . . . Murari’s imagined tale of how a desperate group of Afghans seizes this opportunity to seek their freedom offers insights into the dangers, deprivations, passions, and aspirations of everyday Afghan life.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“There is a twist in the tale—and it is a clever one.”
New York Post
“Required reading.”
Deborah Rodriguez
“A beautifully written novel that takes the reader through the shrouded world of one woman whose only crime is being a woman.... I loved this riveting book.”
Vikas Swarup
“A moving, splendidly realized story of courage and grit in modern-day Kabul. I was won over by Murari’s uplifting and vastly entertaining sporting tale, which reaffirms the power of friendship, fellowship, and love in the face of all forms of tyranny.”
Shashi Tharoor
“A lovely, diverting and moving tale of contemporary Kabul, about love, courage, passion, tyranny and cricket. Murari has an uncommon tale to tell, and does so with imagination and empathy.”
Shelf Awareness
“A compelling novel about cricket in war-torn Kabul, narrated by a young woman who refuses to be silenced by the Taliban.”
Library Journal
When the Taliban's Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice announces that they are sponsoring a cricket tournament, with the winning team receiving training in Pakistan, the brother and cousins of Rukhsana, a female journalist living in Kabul, Afghanistan, see it as their means of escape from the oppressive regime. Disguised as a man, Rukhsana, who learned cricket while at college in India, trains her male relatives. Meanwhile, she plans her own escape via her fiancé in America, a man she doesn't love. VERDICT Fans of Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner will here find a similarly uplifting story about good people surviving their horrific circumstances. Murari finds flashes of humor in unexpected places, such as a scene in which Rukhsana and her grandmother learn to walk in a burka. Some plot contrivances toward the end defy plausibility, and the characters other than Rukhsana are thinly drawn, but overall Murari has crafted a tense, compelling story.—Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis
Kirkus Reviews
Indian filmmaker and novelist Murari (Taj, 2005, etc.) offers a romantic feel-good about Afghanistan circa 2000, not without its share of grim fundamentalism but heavy on the optimism. Educated Afghanis who chafe under the harsh restrictions of the fundamentalist government, plucky 24-year-old Rukhsana and her 16-year-old brother, Jahan, live with their cancer-ridden widowed mother in Kabul. No longer allowed to work as a journalist, Rukhsana still manages to send out anonymous stories of life under Taliban rule to the Hindustan Times in Delhi where she lived with her family in happier times--she attended college and fell in love with Hindu Veer although she gave him up when she returned to Afghanistan, knowing her parents would not approve. One day she and other journalists are called to the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice by Zorak Wahidi, the same man who slapped and physically threatened Rukhsana at a newspaper office four years earlier. Wahidi announces that the Taliban is forming a cricket team as a propaganda tool to show the government's capacity for civility and sportsmanship. The newspapers are to announce that a competition will be held among Afghani teams to decide who gets to compete internationally in Pakistan. Rukhsana, who played cricket on her college team in Delhi, realizes that cricket may be the way to get Jahan out of Afghanistan. She puts together a team of cousins, all of whom want to escape Afghanistan, and disguises herself as a man in order to coach the ragtag band into a competitive force within three short weeks. Fortunately she is wearing her fake beard and goes unrecognized when Wahidi's even more malevolent brother shows up to announce that Wahidi wants to marry Rukhsana. The stakes for winning the cricket match have increased dramatically. Not to worry, Rukhsana is not only smart, beautiful, loyal and beloved, she and her ever-growing band of conspirators are also darn lucky. Readers will be of two minds, whether Murari's Bend It Like Beckham approach to Taliban repression is trivializing or uplifting.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062091253
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
05/15/2012
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
1,162,903
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.16(d)

What People are saying about this

Shashi Tharoor
“A lovely, diverting and moving tale of contemporary Kabul, about love, courage, passion, tyranny and cricket. Murari has an uncommon tale to tell, and does so with imagination and empathy.”
Vikas Swarup
“A moving, splendidly realized story of courage and grit in modern-day Kabul. I was won over by Murari’s uplifting and vastly entertaining sporting tale, which reaffirms the power of friendship, fellowship, and love in the face of all forms of tyranny.”
Deborah Rodriguez
“A beautifully written novel that takes the reader through the shrouded world of one woman whose only crime is being a woman.... I loved this riveting book.”

Meet the Author

TIMERI N. MURARI is an award-winning writer, filmmaker and playwright who began his career as a journalist at The Kingston Whig Standard in Ontario, Canada. TIME magazine chose his film The Square Circle as one of the top ten of the year. He has published fiction and non-fiction, and his bestselling novel Taj, a story of Mughal India, was translated into twenty-one languages. In 2006, he published a memoir, My Temporary Son, exploring his relationship with a desperately ill orphan. Murari now lives with his wife in his ancestral home in Madras, India. Visit him online at timerimurari.com.

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