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Arjun Hemmady’s Captain Khadoos is a work of fiction that is set against the backdrop of cricket and addresses the issue of mental health. Suraj Bhatkal is the main protagonist of the book. The story chronicles his meteoric rise through hard work and determination. It then documents his fall from grace due to his inability to handle the pressure of the limelight, and the opposing team’s guerilla tactics that cause him to become aggressive and unsporting, thus earning him the dubious nickname of ‘Captain Khadoos.’

How does Suraj redeem himself, and emerge stronger? Where does his journey take him? Does he overcome his demons, or does he succumb to the darkness? These are the questions that are addressed in this story that focuses on societal perceptions, relationships, media, and human nature.

I loved the character of Aditi, Suraj’s therapist friend who is also his love. It takes a particular brand of strength to be your partner’s moral compass and stick with them through thick and thin. Aditi demonstrates this courage, even choosing to walk away when she realizes that unless Suraj wants to get better on his own, she cannot influence him. And that is a turning point in their relationship.

Knowledge of cricket is necessary to fully appreciate the book, even though the plot is more than just sport. It touches on depression, a topic that is not discussed enough due to the stigma associated with mental health. The uniqueness of the theme makes it an intriguing read.

One of the chapters has a quote from the Bhagawad Geeta, that encapsulates a beautiful message:

“You have control only over your actions and not over the fruit of your actions. All you can do is give your best. The results are controlled by forces that are beyond our control. You must have a goal, but if you do not achieve your goal, you must not succumb to inaction.” 

This was something that was beautifully incorporated into the story and reflected its gist.

The language is simple and easy to grasp. As a reader, I felt that the mental health arc could have been elaborated on a little more. I do laud the courage and creativity of the author to write on a subject that is often considered taboo and blend it with something entertaining like sport, rendering a novel presentation. Cricket lovers will enjoy this book which carries a unique message on mental health.


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