The Taliban Cricket Club by Timeri N. Murari

A quick rundown…Rukshana lives in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime. Severely limited in her activities, she is convinced to coach her male relatives in the new game of cricket. If they win, they get to leave Afghanistan – perhaps forever.

Strengths: Moving, funny, informative and emotional.

Weaknesses: Another book I wish was longer

Why I read it: My mum won it from Allen and Unwin – but I picked up the parcel and claimed first dibs!

Pages: 325 (ARC)

Published: 2012

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Setting: Afghanistan and surrounds (I refuse to spoil the story for you)

Rating: 9.5 out of 10

When I first read the title of this book, I wondered what on earth it could be about. From what I knew about the Taliban, they didn’t appear to have time to play cricket! But as you read this book, with its equal measures of repression, love, humour and intense sadness, you will understand exactly why this name is the perfect title. Murari writes a sensitive book that will have you laughing, crying and cheering in equal measures.

The main character of the novel is Rukshana, a former journalist who is now forced to write undercover using pseudonyms after not being allowed to work under the Taliban regime. Strangely, she is called to a press conference where it announced that Afghanistan will be holding a cricket tournament and the winners are allowed to travel out of the country – unheard of. Rukshana’s cousins decide to form a team for the ultimate prize – and if they win, they’re not coming back. One problem though: Rukshana’s the only person who knows how to play cricket. Enter watching banned cricket videos under the cover of darkness, some daring disguises and the boys begin to learn their new sport. However, the minister for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has now decided he wishes to marry Rukshana, putting her life at risk. How can Rukshana teach the team to win and evade a forced marriage?

If you loved A Thousand Splendid Suns, you’ll adore this book. Murari balances the descriptions of the severe restrictions forced on the women of Kabul with funny stories of the boys playing cricket and Rukshana’s happier days at university in India. I did have to put down the book several times to compose myself – the injustices that Rukshana faces just because of her sex are difficult to comprehend. Not being allowed to go to the letterbox without as escort is a small but essential freedom denied to her. (Would you rely on your younger brother to post your letters?) What is happier and more amusing, is the ways that the team try to thwart the tyrannies to achieve their freedom – from costumes to fake cousins to practising in the basement.

I don’t want to spoil the ending for you, but please allow yourself adequate time to read and read because you won’t be able to put this down!

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