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Captain Khadoos : An Exciting Cricketing Page Turner Involving Captaincy, Controversy And Resurgence

December 22, 2019

                         Captain Khadoos

Captain Khadoos_cover
Written by Arjun Hemmady
Published by TreeShadeBooks
Cover design Book Bakers
Edited by Harini Srinivasan
Releasing time November 2019
Country India
Language English
Genre Fiction
Media type Paperback
Pages 157
ISBN 978-93-89237-07-8

Captain Khadoos is a fiction based novel set in the year 2025 – a time when cricketers are no longer assumed to be the biggest celebrities of the country while a few of  the less popular sports have come to the fore in order to trump the previous best following India’s unprecedented success of winning 15 medals in the 2024 Paris Olympics. With the Indian cricket team getting bamboozled in every other fixture, failing to win a single series in a long time and with many more crucial foreign tours scheduled for the upcoming years the BCCI now had to make a call. Hence they hand captaincy to the most consistent performer till that point, who, the players in the current national setting too thought would be the most temperamental as well. However it was not to forget that the man’s comeback to the national side was merely a year or so after he had finally been able to come on top of his own demons of depression, largely with the help of Aditi, his personal psychologist, but not before being away from the game for nearly two years. The novel explores an impressible topic (perhaps more than a regular disease that involves our mental health and affects a lion’s share of the nation’s young generation) through an extremely powerful, entertaining and engaging story of Suraj Bhatkal, the star of this action-packed cricketing drama.

Characters:

  • Suraj – Wonder boy from St. Mary’s ICSE School in Mazgaon, Mumbai who would eventually put an end to India’s eternal search for a genuine fast-bowling all-rounder and also resort the longstanding woes regarding leadership by also becoming the Indian captain.
  • Aditi – Suraj’s Personal Psychologist cum friend and his eventual wife whose constant encouragement helped the promising all-rounder to revive his cricketing career that otherwise looked done  at one stage.
  • Sanjeev – Suraj’s father, the one who lost his wife in an untimely death and since then his infant son was brought up by him only.
  • Varun – The captain of Suraj’s school cricket team, the earliest to have voiced about Suraj’s skills of bowling fast.
  • D’Mello – The coach of the school cricket team who saw the potential in Suraj for representing his country someday.
  • Vikrant – Captain of the Indian Cricket Team at the time Suraj made his national debut and until he took over.
  • Dr. Kulkarni – Aditi’s father. A psychiatrist in his early sixties who runs a clinic in Mumbai by working in tandem with his daughter.
  • Mr. Mazumdar – Coach of the Mumbai Ranji team who worked with Suraj in order to get him back into shape since the latter was away from the national set-up.
  • Mehul Patel – Suraj’s County teammate, supremely fit even at the age of 37, from whom he would also learn the art of reverse swing.
  • BCCI Presidents – Two of them – first a legendary opening batsman renowned for his defensive batting and the second being a former left handed opening batsman; both of them being somewhat identical with their way of thinking.
  • Mr. Singh – Coach of the Indian cricket team. The one who had a key role behind Suraj’s captaincy looking more assertive than reluctant.
  • Rizwan – The teenaged-sensation who made waves in the domestic circuit with his stellar performances. The most enthusiastic member of the side Suraj was captaining.
  • Kevin – A tall young left arm fast bowler from Suraj’s team, capable of delivering disciplined yet hostile spells who usually shared the new ball with his captain.
  • Mahesh – Another young fast bowler who also had the capacity of showing resilience with the bat down the order.
  • Ajitesh – India’s stand-in captain in absence of Suraj. A player who played within his limits and was unhesitant to admit his incapability or failure.
  • Zohar – Team India’s bowling coach.
  • Dr. Irani – Team doctor of the national side.
  • Kedar Shetty – Chief of the Administration Department in the office where Suraj worked post his retirement.

 Plot:

            Suraj, then an eighth standard student sitting at the edge of his school playground saw a red rubber ball coming his way and picked it up. Ignoring the repeated shouts from his seniors for giving the ball back he walked towards the make-shift stumps at the non-striker’s end with the ball in his hand. He firmly asked the batsman to bat and comprehensively bowled him by beating all ends up while Varun, the batsman could hardly react before the ball had past his bat. This left everybody stunned including the batsman himself who after facing 6 more balls from the same bowler immediately decided to get him in the school team. Suraj who had never played cricket before is asked to attend the practice sessions in the next morning where Varun convinced D’Mello saying that the newcomer was the fastest bowler he had ever faced. After several rounds of energy-sucking warm-ups Suraj bowled for 15 minutes where he was found guilty of wayward bowling. Still, insisted by Varun, D’Mello decided to take up the challenge of working on Suraj.

            Suraj kept working hard to accurate his line. However in Suraj, Varun also found the traits of a capable batsman although he was not technically correct. While his unorthodox stance (perhaps resembling that of Shivnarine Chanderpaul) and style of play suited Suraj and got him runs, D’Mello, with the thoughts of long run in his mind asked Suraj to change his batting technique. After some difficulty Suraj did manage to make his batting look more correct as far as the technique was concerned but it did not bring the results that mattered more in a cricket match. His vicious swing might have been doing the business with the ball but his batting was going down by notches with every single failure. Fortunately it was not too late for D’Mello to realise that Suraj should be asked to switch back to his actual technique and it brought out instant results.

            Suraj kept on doing wonders at the domestic level; first he got selected for the Mumbai Ranji side at the age of 19 and went on to make his national debut by the next couple of years. His bowling kept flourishing and took the nation by storm, but sadly his batting was overlooked by the Indian team management. Despite his repeated protests he was not getting the opportunity to bat up the order. It was not before the third and final test at the Eden Gardens against New Zealand (where the hosts were found reeling at 53 for 7 in reply to New Zealand’s score of 354) the opportunity to showcase the batting skills would finally knock his door. Suraj joined Vikrant at the crease and was asked to hang in. A determined Suraj keen to make his mark with the bat safely negotiated the prodigious late swing from the Kiwi bowlers. With the waiting game throughout the most critical spells and later capitalising on the opportunities produced he made a remarkable unbeaten 96 until running out of partners at the other end. He might not have scored a hundred but made sure that he would never be asked to bat lower down the order again.

            Suraj’s all-round performances for the next two years made sure that he remained India’s best player by quite some distance. But his non-stop cricket, be it competitive or between the nets meant his body suffered a few usual aches and pains. His reluctance for taking rest and also consuming painkillers at an alarming rate only did harm to his body. He wasn’t in the best mindset deep inside as he often experienced that his mood was swinging in between the episodes of extreme happiness and tremendous sadness. He thought it was just one of those phases that would pass away with time, but it didn’t. He tried speaking about this with his father but only to worsen the situation. Under these circumstances the only thing Suraj enjoyed was to eat and in the process, whether knowingly or otherwise, he had got himself involved to a very unhealthy attachment with food and ended up putting on a significant amount of weight. A clearly overweight and unfit Suraj couldn’t escape the injury scares while touring Australia, the all important series where India needed Suraj at his best if they were to remain in contention for something big. It was his second spell with the ball that saw the Indian Talisman straining his hamstring muscle from where it was not going to be possible for him to continue. This left him even more shattered and frustrated. It was then the Physiotherapist of team who after a long talk with Suraj discovered that the latter had been going through severe depression. Although unwilling initially, Suraj later, as he was advised by the Physiotherapist, decided to take medications to deal his mental health issues and flew back to India.

            On his return to India Suraj consulted with Dr. Kulkarni and his daughter Aditi as they sat together for fixing the required dosage of medicines. After a few sessions it was revealed that Suraj’s mental issues were partly because of the difficult relationship with his father while digging it further showed that the Indian all-rounder was suffering from a deep sense of inadequateness. Aditi, also an ardent cricket fan, whom Suraj found to be well-suited alongside himself, slowly but surely started to fill those gaps. She also noticed Suraj’s morbid food habits resulting which the career of India’s greatest cricketing asset in recent times was left out in shambles. In fact even quitting cricket once struck the mind of Suraj who was then weighing about 16-17 kilograms more than what should have been the ideal weight according to his height. However with Aditi constantly pressing on him to get back to fitness and competitive cricket finally changed his mind. Suraj approached a resentful Mr. Mazumdar and felt sorry for his unsportsmanlike attitude of late. Mazumdar found Suraj a place in the Mumbai Ranji side as the latter staged a perfect comeback by topping the charts for both batting as well as the bowling averages. It was though, much to the agony of Suraj Bhatkal, still turned out not to be enough for his selection in India’s tour to Sri Lanka. Suraj could not believe his luck. On the other hand, Mazumdar had other ideas. He insisted Suraj to spend the next six months in England playing County Cricket under the wing of former Baroda man Mehul Patel as he thought it would be a good opportunity for Suraj to sharpen his bowling skills in particular.

            Suraj enjoyed a successful County stint with the red ball coming at the back of extreme hardships during his practice sessions under the relentless censure and strict supervision of Mehul. Besides having an intimidating pace he was now finally able to swing the ball both ways, something which lacked with his bowling in the past. Although for a majority of the season he looked way below par than the batsman he is, Mehul with his latest of interventions made sure that reverse swing wasn’t the only thing Suraj had come to learn from England.

            With Suraj’s performances both in India as well as in abroad his selection in the Indian team was now just a matter of time. The opportunity finally came in the home series against West Indies with Suraj getting the news straight from the selection committee itself well before it had been aired to media. An excited Suraj called up Aditi and decided to take her out for a dinner. They spent a quiet evening in a restaurant but Suraj kept the celebrations short as he looked much more determined this time – after all he was gearing up for a much awaited comeback.

            Sitting in a corner of the Eden Gardens dressing room on match-day Suraj came to know about his selection in the playing eleven from Vikrant. The skipper also wanted him to be in charge of shining the ball because very few in the team knew it better than Suraj did. In his comeback test he came on as a change bowler and struck with the very first ball by sending the off stump for a cart wheel. He rattled the stumps on two more occasions in the same over while the last dismissal was an exhibition of horrendous reverse swing. By the end of the West Indies innings he went on to double the tally of wickets that he got from his first over.

            In the next few months Suraj didn’t have to look back anymore as he repeatedly laid on top performances; however that wasn’t enough to win his team even a single series. This brought out inevitable calls for removing the captain and the BCCI found Suraj the fittest man for the job. Suraj, who didn’t have any prior captaincy experiences started with a lot of reluctance where he was seen crosschecking his opinion with those of his teammates. Later on the guidance of Mr. Singh unveiled a more assertive version of captain Suraj Bhatkal, who started becoming adventurous and aggressive as he adopted the strategy of winning at all costs regardless of the risks involved. His fearless captaincy coupled with his team’s fighting spirits nearly reaped rewards in India’s tour to South Africa where after two drawn games upfront the visitors were in with a golden opportunity to seal the series by winning the third and final test. With South Africa needing 300 odd runs to win on the final day and India requiring only 4 wickets, the hosts still managed to snatch a draw from the jaws of defeat by batting out the day without losing a single wicket. Suraj had every reason to be disappointed for not being able to close out the game as he kept on thinking if he was ever going to get a better chance of winning a test series outside the subcontinent.

            Suraj’s next assignment as the captain of Indian cricket team was the Pataudi Trophy, as they toured England for a 4-match Test Series. The scoreline remained unchanged till the start of the 4th and final test at Lords as neither team was able to get off the mark. First and third tests ended without producing results with not much to talk. In the second test however, it was India who once had thoughts of playing all-out for a win but only until rain came to make lives hell out at the middle. Suraj used all his County experience and with a collective help from Rizwan, Mahesh and Kevin from the other end he was able to bail his team out of a certain defeat. England players, having been denied to go one-up in the series were fuming in anger as the umpire missed a clear inside edge and ruled the Indian skipper not out minutes before the end of the day’s play. Hence the final test was supposed to be a mouth-watering contest; especially keeping the build-up to this game in mind with dispossessed tempers kept flowing all round the park. At the start of the final day of the final test the game was seen evenly poised. Although India picked up wickets at regular intervals but Englishmen too scored at a steady pace and expectedly the game went all the way down to the last ball with all four results possible – An England win, an India win, a draw or even a tie. England needed 2 runs from the final ball that struck the pads of the English batsman. Umpire didn’t bat an eye to India’s loud shout while the England batters exchanged their ends twice in the meantime to snatch a win. The replays however showed that the ball would have gone to crash into the middle stump. This left the whole nation, that had gathered for a cricket match after a long time, shattered; players inconsolable and the captain even more dejected. What went worse was that when Suraj walked out to attend the post match presentation ceremony he was verbally abused by the English players and without thinking about the results Suraj made abusive finger gestures at them. Unfortunately this image of Suraj was the one which the English media decided to run after throughout the next day. On the other hand, Indian media coined the name “Captain Khadoos” for Suraj. The disappointment was clear with the Indian captain as Aditi tried to console Suraj over telephone and immediately after returning to India a drunk Suraj visited his father’s place for reasons only he knew about. The only good thing to have happened with Suraj was that the BCCI extended their arms of support towards their captain despite ICC starting disciplinary proceedings against him.

            When England came to India for another 5-match test series the only thing Suraj had in his mind was revenge. It didn’t matter to him whether he was being unfair or unsporting, he simply wanted to win by hook or crook. He insisted the pitch curator to prepare a square turner for the first game that India won comfortably. But that’s not all, his influencing personality proved out to be enough to convince curators for the next three venues also leaving out England with no chance of restoring parity. It was however in the last test in Mumbai where Suraj’s plan didn’t work as a competitive wicket awaited for the two teams there and right from the first day of the test match India went on the back foot. On the final day England were left to score 150 runs from the remaining 30 overs but Suraj used all his wicked plans like wasting time and bowling negative lines to stop the opponent from getting these runs. When his teammates were not willing to bowl negative lines he bowled half the overs alone. Though India did manage to draw the game and win the series, it was only their captain who was seen celebrating. Indian players other than Suraj felt that they had no right to celebrate and the home crowd of Wankhede booed at and shouted slogans against their local boy. A disgusted Aditi seemed to have lost all the respect for her closest friend as she left the stadium instead of meeting Suraj. When she returned, she slapped Suraj to the fullest of her arm-strengths. Suraj, though left completely stunned with Aditi’s action, still continued his attempts of justifying his misconduct on the field. An absolutely livid Aditi made a firm statement that she had already made the decision of leaving Suraj warning the latter that he should never try to get in touch with her again.

            Losing out Aditi hurt Suraj thousand times more than his ban after final test against England did. He was desperate to get their friendship back on track in which he finally succeeded after rounds of apologising. Team India made it to the final of the ICC Champions Trophy hosted at their own backyard and Suraj, whose ban had just been lifted, was drafted in as a last minute replacement for an injured Mahesh. South Africa having won the toss and electing to bat first were set for a massive total with 261 already on the board and 10 overs remaining. Pressure was clearly telling on Ajitesh, India’s stand-in captain for the tournament. Crumbling under pressure he asked Suraj to take over captaincy for the remainder of the innings. Suraj with a lot more experience by his side was able to put the brakes on the scoring rate and let the Proteas score only 36 from the final ten overs. With the momentum getting shifted towards the home side at the break Suraj expressed his wish to open the innings and he duly had the nod of Ajitesh, a much relieved man by then. Batting at the top, Suraj made a notoriously slow start as it took him 19 balls to open his account. But when he did, nonetheless after crowd once again raising their voice against the left hander, by depositing one of his release shots straight into the stands, there was none stopping him. He followed it up with two more breathtaking sixes off the next two balls and from there simply took the game by the scruff of its neck. He scored a match winning 156 not out from 124 balls and while walking off the field he saw that the crowd had started to get behind their local boy once again. This was something that gave Suraj the utmost pleasure.

            India were set to tour Australia in a few days – a place that was yet to be conquered by Suraj, both as a player and the captain of the team. But just ahead of the tour an article published in the newspaper set the Indian captain fuming in anger. It said that the CEO of some company had taken a break for dealing with his mental issues while people instead of showing any hint of sympathy started making jokes out of him. Suraj could feel the agony as he had gone through similar phases in his life and decided to take a stand. As directed by Aditi he gave an interview where he said that he was supporting the move and neither he was ashamed about revealing the fact that he was still on medication for his case. But the aftershock of the incident was even more frustrating with the news channels playing his quotes over and over. It didn’t impress his father either, who as usually remained at the opposite end of Suraj’s considerations and also thought that the witty Aussies might use it to their advantage. A mentally “not-quite-a-hundred-percent” Suraj was pushed into a further state of confusion with Aditi finally expressing her feelings for him, which the touring skipper didn’t have an answer to. Thus he had to leave for the all important Australia tour with his mind in a mess.

            Arriving at Australia, the test got even bigger on the side having the most of its members touring there for the very first time. Underprepared and slow wickets arranged for the practice games didn’t help India’s cause and as feared they were up against a daunting challenge from the hosts in the first of the 4-match test series. Batting first, Australia piled on a mammoth total of 679 and India in reply lost 3 early wickets followed by their captain who suffered a serious blow below his ear. The scenes of an unconscious Suraj being stretched off the ground sent shockwaves to Aditi back in India. After reassurances from her father Aditi took the next available flight to Australia and visited the hospital where the doctors had kept Suraj in a “medically induced coma”. Days later Suraj was discharged from the hospital and doctors said that he could resume his training sessions. Although Suraj joined practice sessions, but with him it was evident that he was yet to be out of the trauma. India however, after getting mauled in the first test badly needed Suraj to be at the peak of his fitness, be it physical or mental. Mr. Singh following his discussions with Aditi devised a plan to extricate Suraj from the haunting memories of that blow and communicated it to Zohar. As instructed by the bowling coach, Kevin overrode the unspoken rule of not bowling bouncers during net sessions and did exactly the opposite with the ball narrowly missing the helmet. Zohar was quick to intervene as Suraj came up threateningly to Kevin and asked Suraj if he was afraid of facing bouncers. This made him even angrier and an all fired and pumped up Suraj took his anger by Kevin’s hostile bouncers that after a while no more looked difficult for him to navigate – he was back again.

            India made a fighting comeback to the series in the second test. On the final day it was left to Suraj and six other players to score 233 more runs and make it all-square. But Australians on their home soil were ever prepared to make life difficult for India. Suraj got hit again, this time right between his eyes as the ball broke through the visor of his helmet. Going into the field Dr. Irani found that Suraj had broken his nose and also had lost a lot of blood. The Indian skipper didn’t listen to Dr. Irani’s suggestion of going to the hospital, rather continued to bat with a lot of stuffings put on his nose, withstanding severe pain and ignoring occasional bleeding. His waiting game for a sustained period of time frustrated the Australians and made them to commit mistakes from where he and Rizwan could capitalise. Although Rizwan departed after playing a handful part, Suraj led his team to an epic victory at the Adelaide Oval with an unbeaten century.

            After an inspiring win in the second test India nearly pushed Australia towards a defeat in the third test at Perth but rain came to the rescue of the hosts and once again like in England, it was down to the final test. But even before the final test could begin, medical tests showed that Suraj had suffered a tear in his rotator cuff. As he was not willing to miss the game he had to agree to the terms of limiting his bowling and throwing with underarms only during the match. India were the better of the two sides at Sydney where Australia needed 189 runs and India needed 5 wickets on the final day. India kept pressing hard for the wickets and on the other hand Australia uncharacteristically played for a draw. India inched closer to the victory as Australia were 8 down but then again with the stubborn resistance from the Aussie batters India were not able to close out the game. The frustrations were visible with the Indians, so much so that Suraj had to change his mind and come in to bowl. He did break the deadlock but just when India needed a solitary wicket to win the game and the series, Suraj hurt his injured shoulder once again. He left the field in tears of agony and sat in the dressing room. The anticlimax was nonetheless left, as Sanjeev had a telephonic conversation with his son. For the first time ever in his life Suraj heard his praises pouring from his father. Buoyed by the confidence his father had in him, Suraj decided to go out with his right arm put inside a sling and held on to a fantastic catch with his left hand off the final delivery of the match. The whole Indian team erupted in joy and their captain was then the happiest person in the world. On the flight back to India Suraj told Aditi that he also had feelings for her. Sanjeev gave Suraj a warm reception at the airport and with the father and the son hugging each other it seemed that they could now safely forget about the complexities in their past relationship.

            20 years later, when Suraj was working in a company as the Head of Administration and coaching school kids during his off-times, he got a sudden call on behalf of the President of BCCI as he was asked to visit the BCCI headquarters. The visit taken Suraj aback by two decades and there were flashes from the past memories inside his mind. His conversation then with the BCCI President headed in a fashion that was identical to the one that took place about twenty years ago. At the end the President of BCCI handed a thin file to Suraj opening which the former cricketer found that he was being offered the position of the Head Coach of the team he once captained. Suraj’s response didn’t come instantly, but after a conversation with a thoughtful Kedar and then a long one with his wife Aditi, it finally did. Suraj tendered his resignation at the office and took up the job which many people reckoned that he would be fantastic doing at.

 Striking Quotes & Dialogues:

Some of the quotes from the book when put together with the actual sequence of their occurrences will bring out a perfect notion towards a rough sketch of the story. Here are some of those:

  • “You mean he can play in the school team?”

“No, I mean he can play for India.”

  • ”A psychologist? But I am not mad!”

“I know you are not mad Suraj, but it is important to deal with this before it gets out of hand.”

  • “How could they have left me out?”

“Ask yourself Suraj, can you bowl an outswinger? Can you do reverse swing?”

  • “Now am I ready?”

“No, you will be ready when you will be able to do the same thing back home.”

  • “You have control over your actions and not on the fruit of actions. And if you don’t succeed, don’t succumb to inactivity.”
  • “Go out on the field and show those bastards who is the boss!”
  • “Suraj was good enough to be an Australian.”

Conclusion:

          The author has done an exceedingly good job to make this book a perfect blend of many talking points like social relationships, emotion, cricketing drama, managing depression, keeping patience, sacrifice for the nation and tasting success. The work deserves a lot of appreciation as it has been an extremely well researched one. Reading the author’s note itself gives us an idea about his social awareness while his flair for the technical nuances of the game reflected throughout the book. The central characters were robust in many ways but not to forget the supporting ones as each and every of them had a role or two to play.

Recommendations:

            I would like to recommend the book to three sets of readers and the sets are bound to intersect with one another. Set one – cricket fans. If you are a fan of this game irrespective of whether or not you wish to make a career out of cricket, you should find this book worth reading. Number two – young generation of the country that often runs out of motivation and at times don’t see what should be looked forward to. This book will teach them lessons on keeping focus and working harder to achieve goals. And the third – people who are going through depression that may be caused by any reason. It may not help them to snap out of it instantly but will surely provide generic ways of managing their respective issues more tactfully. And like I mentioned that the sets are disjoint by no means, in case you feel that you are the one who is common to all three categories then don’t think twice, this book is a must read for you.

From → Cricket, Others

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