Book Review: The Taliban Cricket Club
Do we really need more books about the terrible Taliban? About how the culture they impose on their people does not follow traditional western guidelines? Apparently, we do, and Timeri N. Murari definitely thinks so. It seems the The Taliban Cricket Club is written with The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini in mind. It seems to draw great inspiration from the award-winning book and may have been moulded from it, but the result is the same as the Star Wars sequels, which were never as good as the prequels. The book doesn’t bring anything new to the table and its predictability makes it boring. In fact, it reads like a low-budget, mainstream Hollywood movie which always chooses to take the easiest and most been there-done that path forward. Also, all plot-holes are ignored for the sake of a terrible story.
The tale revolves around Rukhsana, a journalist and the daughter of an Afghan diplomat. Previously, she lived in Delhi where she attended university and where she fell in love despite her commitment to an arranged marriage to her childhood sweetheart, who has already escaped to the United States and is expected to send for her. Surprise, he doesn’t! One day she is called to the office of Zorak Wahidi, the Taliban Minister for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, who also wants to make Rukhsana his bride. He explains to her that the Taliban are embracing cricket as a sport and want to create an official state team. They are organising a tournament and the winners of the tournament will go to Pakistan to be trained. This is seen as the perfect escape out of Afghanistan. But there is only one issue – hardly anyone knows how to play cricket. Thankfully, because Rukhsana lived in Delhi earlier, she is one of the few people who actually knows how to play the game. She forms a team with her cousins and teaches them to play so that they escape to Pakistan, and from there to any other part of the world, to be free from the oppression of the Taliban – a theme which is highlighted dozens of times throughout the novel. Ruksana must take on the disguise of a male to coach, as well as play in the tournament. If they lose, her family will have to remain in Afghanistan with her and she will be forced to marry Zorak Wahidi, something which no freedom-loving woman would ever want to do.
On the day of the tournament, Rukhsana’s college love, Veer, arrrives with the intention of taking her back with him. Instead of doing that, however, he too joins her cricket team. Nobody seems to have any qualms about the fact that he is Indian – least of all the author. Obviously, Rukhsana’s team wins the tournament but despite the win, Zorak Wahidi does not allow them to leave for Pakistan. Instead, the Afghan State Cricket team, that came second, is allowed to go to Pakistan and train. The story does not end here as Rukhsana and her teammates lock up the Afghan State Cricket team in their locker room, steal their jackets and their passports and daringly escape to Pakistan. The book ends with the team disposing of their stolen jackets and passports and heading their separate ways after ditching the representatives from the Pakistan Cricket Board who will be looking for them once they realise they are missing.
So, if you’re in the mood for a book about escaping Afghanistan, you may as well read The Kite Runner.
This book review was published in the August issue under the headline “It’s Just Not Cricket.”
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