Synopsis

Gerard Collard, a major French book critic, reviews the novel on television.

http://www.allodocteurs.fr/actualite-sante-la-selection-du----13312.asp?1=1

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.- Shashi Tharoor,
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. NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
So what happens when the Taliban form a propagandist cricket club? It is an intriguing question, which the author explores in this vivid novel set in a war-torn Kabul. THE OBSERVER UK.
Murari’s devils are in its horrific details: the Taliban’s sign women should only be seen in the home and in the grave, the man and woman accused of adultery shot dead in the street, the former president hanged outside his palace. Rukhsana tells her team that violence has no place in cricket. If that’s so, someone replies, then “cricket will never become popular here.” NEW YORK TIMES
I cannot rate The Taliban Cricket Club, an intriguing and heart warming story of one woman’s fight against oppression in modern day Kabul, highly enough. It should be a word-of-mouth bestseller for both independents and chain stores. BOOKSELLER UK.
…there’s something admirably bold about daring to mix gentle comedy with violent human rights abuse…CURIOUS BOOKS UK
… 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. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY US
Livres-hebdo
"Romancier traduit dans vingt langues, Timeri N. Murari plonge dans l'Afghanistan des années 2000 et de la mainmise des talibans. Il brosse un terrible portrait de Kaboul en même temps que celui d'une jeune femme décidée à se battre contre l'oppression."
Alexandre Fillon

LCI- coup de coeur des libraires
"C'est un livre complètement bouleversant. Un suspens d'enfer. L'oppression vu par les femmes. Timeri Murari dit beaucoup de choses avec simplicité et talent!"
Gérard Collard (librairie la Griffe noire)

A thrilling blend of adventure, romance, and danger, Murari’s novel will have
readers rooting for Rukhsana and the brave team of boys she hopes to guide to victory and freedom. BOOKLIST, US.
Murari finds flashes of humor in unexpected places, such as a scene in which Rukhsana and her grandmother learn to walk in a burka. Murari has crafted a tense, compelling story. LIBRARY JOURNAL US.

One's attention is held throughout, with a cross-border love story involving an Indian adding to the drama, and the possibility of the triumph of true love impelling one to turn the pages. THE HINDU.
The Taliban Cricket Club is a thrilling tale that keeps you on the edge of your seat to the last. INDIA TODAY.

A compelling novel about cricket in war-torn Kabul, narrated by a young woman who refuses to be silenced by the Taliban. SHELF AWARENESS US
Rukhsana is a female character that refuses to be forgotten, and "The Taliban Cricket Club" is a book that refuses to be ignored. SPENSER REPORT

THE OBSERVER
There is no place for any act of violence on the field of play," states preamble No 6 in the Laws of Cricket – an epigraph to this topical novel. So what happens when the Taliban form a propagandist cricket club? It is an intriguing question, which the author explores in this vivid novel set in a war-torn Kabul, where citizens are brutally assassinated and a woman has her finger chopped off for wearing nail varnish. The reader is less bowled over by comedy-drama than stumped by harrowing tragedy.
There is, though, a feisty female protagonist who finds a sense of freedom in sport. in journalist Rukshana, who has written about Taliban abuses and so fears the worst when she is summoned to the "Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice". But the minister in charge has other plans – a cricket tournament, and his intention to marry her. Through her knowledge of cricket, learnt in Delhi, Rukshana sees a means of escape, for the winner will travel internationally. The plot is far-fetched, but the cinematic descriptions of war, and the joy of cricket, score highly.


National Geographic.
An Opening in Afghanistan
One country that has long fascinated me is Afghanistan. While I’ve never been able to travel there—the closest I’ve gotten was a view of rugged ranges from the Pakistani side of the Khyber Pass—an engaging new novel, The Taliban Cricket Club has just whisked me inside. Written by Indian author, filmmaker, and playwright Timeri N. Murari, the book is set in 2000, a year when the then-ruling Taliban actually did support the creation of a national cricket team. 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.
BOOKSELLER UK
I cannot rate The Taliban Cricket Club, an intriguing and heart warming story of one woman’s fight against oppression in modern day Kabul, highly enough. Rukhsana, a courageous young journalist secretly writing anti-government articles, is horrified to discover that she has been selected by the terrifying minister, Wahidi, to be his new wife. Her only way to escape this fate is to get out of the country and such an opportunity arises out of a cricket tournement (which has to be won) and for her to coach a group of boys who have never played before. It should be a word-of-mouth bestseller for both independents and chain stores.
CURIOUS BOOKS

If you lived in a country which was controlled by a brutal regime which restricted the freedom and choices of their citizens, you’d understandably dream of finding a way out. If that regime then decided to try to improve their international image by hosting a cricket tournament to show the world what jolly good chaps they were, promising that the winners would go abroad for coaching, then it might well seem like the answer to your prayers – especially if by good fortune you just happened to be one of the few people in the country who had ever played the game; in fact, you’d played for a university team in India and you really do know your stuff. It would be tempting to see your sporting skills as a great way to escape oppression. You would teach your brother and cousins and a few of their friends how to play and do your best to win. It all sounds very easy. The trouble is that there is of course a twist. This is Afghanistan, the regime is the murderous and humourless Taliban and you – yes you – the cricketing genius who holds the family destiny in your hands are a woman. Welcome to Timeri N. Murari’s novel The Taliban Cricket Club.
Rukhsana is the heroine of our story. After attending university in New Delhi where her father was ‘posted’ she returned to Kabul to work as a journalist until the Taliban made it impossible for women to work. For some unclear reason, she was still on the list of journalists which was used by the ‘Ministry to Promote Virtue and Punish Vice’ when they called the press to the Ministry building to announce their sporting initiative.
Rukhsana is excited about the idea of teaching the men of her family to play the game she loves. She dusts off her old pads, finds her old copy of the rule book and prepares to start training. But how can you demonstrate the finer points of spin bowling whilst draped head to toe in a burkha with only a small mesh panel to look through? She has another problem too. The Minister who’s running the tournament – the violent Zorak Wahidi – wants Rukhsana for his wife and sends his brother and his sister-in-law to demand her hand in marriage. With a terminally ill mother at home, she can’t go into hiding so Rukhsana has two big problems and one classically Shakespearian solution. What would the bard do? Well of course he’d find a false beard and disguise his heroine as a young man. Rukhsana becomes Babur, the cousin from the country.
Can she mould her relatives who’ve never seen a cricket ball or watched a cricket match into a winning team? Will her cousin Shaheen to whom she’s long been engaged but whom she doesn’t love send the money so that she can flee the country, or will the man she really loves rescue her from an arranged marriage? Or in the worst of all possible outcomes, will she have to become one of the Minister’s wives?
“…there’s something admirably bold about daring to mix gentle comedy with violent human rights abuse…”
Sometimes a book comes along that makes you think it’s going to cause quite a stir and could well be set to be one that everyone’s talking about in a few months time. That was my impression when I read The Taliban Cricket Club. It is ‘popular’ fiction rather than ‘literary’ fiction – if you are looking for the next ‘Kite Runner’ then look elsewhere because this isn’t it. If this were set anywhere other than Afghanistan under the Taliban I would classify it as ‘chick lit’ but you just can’t easily imagine cricket or the summary assassinations of innocent people quite slipping into your run-of-the-mill romantic comedy. And that – more or less – is what this book is. It has been described as ‘Bend it Like Beckham in a Burkha’ but I think that does disservice to both the film and the book. This reminds me more of films like ‘Escape to Victory’, the football classic in which prisoners of war in a German camp take on the guards whilst attempting to escape from the prison. As readers we the odds will be stacked against the little men (and woman), we know that fair play will be the last thing on the minds of the authorities, and yet we’ll also get that warm, fuzzy feeling of knowing that this has to all work out right in the end but we just don’t know how it’s going to do so.

I’ve read a lot of books set in Afghanistan and they are almost without exception tales of oppression, torture and abuse. This really is something very different. Whilst the plot has plenty of shades of Shakespearean cross-dressing and whilst the whole thing is deliciously predictable, there’s something admirably bold about daring to mix gentle comedy with violent human rights abuse, to combine cricket with killing, and beards with bats. This book will undoubtedly attract readers who wouldn’t read the more typical misery-lit which characterises books about Afghanistan and many of those readers will learn something about life for Afghanis, especially women, under the Taliban. And for me, that’s got to be a good result in a match of any kind.
Few things can be more exciting than finding a great new writer and then realising that he’s not new at all and there are nearly a score of other books for you to track down and read. Timeri N. Murari is an Indian-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada, USA and UK as a journalist, novelist, film producer, playwright and stage director. He’s written for children, young adults, and adults tapping into genres across the spectrum of fiction, fantasy and non-fiction. So how come most of us have never heard of him? Read our Q&A to find out more about Murari and his latest book – The Taliban Cricket Club – then head over to the forum to find out how you can win a copy.
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, 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 .

BOOKLIST US

Set in 2000 in Taliban-controlled Kabul, the latest novel by acclaimed writer and filmmaker Murari (Taj, 2005) follows a group of Afghan boys determined to win a cricket championship and change their lives. The boys have an unusual coach in their cousin, Rukhsana, who studied abroad in Delhi and played on a cricket team. A former journalist now confined to her house by the Taliban, Rukhsana sees the Talibansponsored cricket tournament as a chance for her brother, Jahan, and their cousins to escape Kabul, provided they can win the tournament. Rukhsana herself is waiting for her fiancé, Shaheen, to send money for her to join him in America, even though her heart lies with Veer, a man she met while studying in Delhi. When a sinister Taliban minister decides he wants Rukhsana for his wife, her family puts their lives on the line to protect her. A thrilling blend of adventure, romance, and danger, Murari’s novel will have
readers rooting for Rukhsana and the brave team of boys she hopes to guide to victory and freedom. — Kristine Huntley

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. Murari has crafted a tense, compelling story.—Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis
THE HINDU
“The laws of cricket tell of the English love of compromise between a particular freedom and a general orderliness, or legality” wrote Neville Cardus. The Taliban, not known for any great love of freedom nor of legality, decided in a moment of aberration to promote cricket in Afghanistan and this provides the take-off point for Timeri Murari's latest work of fiction,The Taliban Cricket Club.
Feisty, reckless journalist Rukhsana is under a terrible threat. A powerful Talib leader Wahidi intends to marry her; her wishes in the matter do not count. When the Taliban announces that there will be a cricket tournament and the winners sent to Pakistan for further training, Rukhsana, as one of the few Afghans familiar with the game, decides it is perhaps the only way to escape Wahidi, and get out of the country.
Wearing aburqa, she begins coaching her team of cousins. “Through the mesh, I could barely focus on a bowler, let alone the ball… When I tried to bowl, my right hand became entangled in the flapping garment, I lost sight of Parwaaze, the ball flew over his head.” The reader is treated to a description of the rudiments of cricket, played on a makeshift pitch in war-torn Kabul. It is here that Murari's skills as a writer are evident, because he does not yield to the temptation of waxing lyrical about a graceful ballet of sportsmen on emerald fields nor of displaying his intimate knowledge of the game (his grandfather and father were legendary players in the annals of pre-independence cricket).
“There is no place for any act of violence on the field of play” rules the MCC and the Spirit of the Game is juxtaposed against the wanton brutality of the Taliban regime. “Cricket is theater, it's dance, it's an opera. It's dramatic. It's about individual conflict that takes place on a huge stage. But the two warriors also represent the ten other players; 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.” Cricket becomes a metaphor for everything the Taliban is not.
Murari introduces a third element in the novel, the Shakespearean motif of cross-dressing, flagged by a reference to Shylock. While in his earlier work The Square Circle(Daayra) both sexual and gender identities were explored through the means of disguise, Murari uses clothing here in a more ironical way for all women under theburqaare interchangeable and unrecognisable.
Rukhsana, chaste and determinedly feminine, becomes Babur and disguise affords her a greater invisibility than that beneath theburqa. Cross-dressing, by men who played women who then played men in Shakespeare's romantic comedies, becomes a means of personal safety and the expression of great courage by Rukhsana who is certain to be summarily shot if discovered.
I must admit to a great resistance, on first seeing the evocative cover photograph by Mustafa Quraishi, to being taken back to the days of capricious violence inflicted on women by the Taliban. Why return there, I wondered, to distress that was unbearable even when felt the first time, say at the execution of Zarmina. However, Murari deftly portrays a heroine who fights against unbeatable

odds, in the midst of a totalitarian regime, and wins. By making Rukhsana the personal target of Wahidi, Murari brings us frighteningly close to the Taliban and allows us to participate in the attempt to outwit him.
One's attention is held throughout, with a cross-border love story involving an Indian adding to the drama, and the possibility of the triumph of true love impelling one to turn the pages. Even if there are some coincidences that seem staged, one goes along quite willingly suspending disbelief. In the end, it is love that is celebrated: Romantic, familial and fraternal. Tulsi Badrinath
MSN TODAY

When the Afghan national side played its first ever ODI against a Test-playing country this February, the Taliban joined President Hamid Karzai in sending messages of support for the team. The whole nation was said to be glued to the television, and even though Pakistan won by seven wickets, the Afghan Tigers, as they're known, acquitted themselves more than respectably.
The story of the rise of Afghan cricket merits not one but many novels. In five years, with poor facilities, they climbed from the fifth to the first division of the World Cricket League and were ranked ninth in International Twenty20. In a three-day match in April, they defeated the Netherlands with an unbeaten 84 scored by 18-year-old Afsar Zalzal, clinching the match. Later this year, their Under-19s will take on India's in Brisbane.
Historically, the story of Afghan cricket begins in the refugee camps in Pakistan after the Russian invasion of 1979, where boys joined local kids playing the game. Here one young man, Taj Malik, the father of Afghan cricket, was dreaming of an Afghan team.
In The Taliban Cricket Club, Timeri N. Murari has taken inspiration not from Malik but from Soviet-period sporting news, and the Taliban's strange decision to give limited approval to cricket. Murari then leaps into pure fiction by making his central character, an Afghan cricket guru, a woman journalist who learned her sport during her college days in Delhi. There is a touch of Elizabeth from Lagaan (woman teaching cricket-ignorant men, with a lot at stake), and Rani Mukherjee from Dil Bole Hadippa! (false beard and male impersonation) about Ruksana.
Still Murari knows how to pace his tale and create credible characters. Ruksana with her courage and liveliness is attractive, and her terror of the Taliban is convincing. Brought up in liberal times before the Taliban conquered Kabul, through her experience the author paints a stark picture of the Taliban takeover with its violence, oppression and toll on human values. The Taliban are portrayed as monsters rather than men, until their unexpected approval of cricket gives the glimmer of hope that forms the core of the suspense and the high drama of this novel.
Murari also leaves space for human warmth, loyalty and romance, but above all, The Taliban Cricket Club is a thrilling tale that keeps you on the edge of your seat to the last. GILLIAN WRIGHT.

SHELF AWARENESS

Although the Taliban are well known for violence and intimidation, few people are aware of their brief flirtation with cricket. Many Afghans were baffled when the regime lifted its own ban on sports in 2000, promoting cricket in a bid for international political acceptance.
Timeri N. Murari (Taj, My Temporary Son) spins a compelling fictional narrative around this odd fact, telling the story through the eyes of Rukhsana, an outspoken journalist who fell in love both with cricket and an Indian man in Delhi. Furious at the Taliban's growing oppression of journalists and worried about her mother's declining health, Rukhsana disguises herself as a young man to teach her brother and cousins to play cricket. If they win the national tournament, they can escape to Pakistan, and Rukhsana can avoid a forced marriage to a Taliban official.
Murari endows Rukhsana with his own love of the game, explaining that it represents freedom, individual responsibility, the ability to be creative--all principles the Taliban longs to crush. He tenderly portrays the bonds between an ill mother and her children, and the tightly knit team of cousins who rally around Rukhsana. While most of the book takes place in Rukhsana's home and on the cricket fields, the Taliban and their reign of terror lurk in the background--a constant, menacing shadow.
A love letter to cricket and to Kabul,The Taliban Cricket Club dares to imagine a different Afghanistan, where a simple game could bring about fair play, peace and a measure of freedom for all. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger atCakes,Teaand Dreams
Discover: A compelling novel about cricket in war-torn Kabul, narrated by a young woman who refuses to be silenced by the Taliban.

Spencer Daily Reporter US

In 2000, the Taliban decided to adopt cricket as a national sport. Until this time, athletics of any sort were illegal, as they promoted celebration and rebellion. But appealing to the international cricket community, they hoped, would help them to gain acceptance from the rest of the world.
This story is the basis for Timeri Murari's latest novel, "The Taliban Cricket Club." Rukhsana is a fiery young journalist who has been forced into the shadows because she is a woman. So, she writes under a pseudonym, and faxes them a trusted contact.
And yet, even though she has taken every precaution to keep her identity under wraps, she is still summoned by Zorak Wahidi, the Minister for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, to appear before the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. She is not told why her presence is requested.
Rukhsana lives in Kabul, a once-beautiful city that, like its occupants, has wasted away under the rule of the Taliban:
The city, as fragile as any human, was gaunt with sickness; its blackened ribs jutted out at odd angles, craters of sores pitted its skin, and girders lay twisted like broken bones in the streets. Its gangrenous breath smelled of explosives, smoke, and despair. Even mosques were not spared the savagery, their skulls explosively opened to the sky.
Once she is gathered with the other area journalists, Minister Wahidi makes his proclamation: Afghanistan has applied to the International Cricket Council for membership, to show themselves as a fair and just people:
"Cricket will show all those against us that we too can be sportsmen. As our young men have much time to spare, we wish to occupy them to prevent any vices."
Because cricket, and all sports, have been banned for so long, none of the local men know how to play. A woman certainly would not be allowed to play regardless. But Rukhsana knows how to play and her cousins do not. So she must teach them, and she must do so without being caught.
"The Taliban Cricket Club" takes a few pages to get into, but before long Rukhsana shines through and the story takes over. What's most captivating is to think that, even though the book is a work of fiction, the over-arching plot line did truly exist.
Rukhsana is rebellious and gutsy. She will not be one to cave into submission just because of her sex. Her game of cricket is one of elegance and individuality, a game that she herself embodies.
As the story progresses, we see into her memory and into the experiences that have shaped her. She is her own woman, one who exemplifies the strength in quiet protest.
Rukhsana is a female character that refuses to be forgotten, and "The Taliban Cricket Club" is a book that refuses to be ignored.