WINDIES TOUR OF INDIA, 2018
Chase stood tall for Windies to help them put in a strong opening day performance © AFP
If there were a few horses for courses that the Windies had identified before setting out for the India Tests, one of the prime names among those would have been of Roston Chase. And there’s little surprise that the statement evokes, as Chase, who played his second Test against India and scored a hundred, by now has more than once, showcased his liking for sub-continental bowling attacks. On Friday (October 12), he once again made it count, getting to the cusp of his fourth Test hundred – ending the opening day of the second Test at 98*.
While his love for India’s and Pakistan’s bowling attacks is unmistakable, it came though after a lot of background work that he had to do in the aftermath of his failures against Pakistan, during the Tests in the UAE in 2016. Yasir Shah, Pakistan’s premier legbreak bowler, troubled Chase almost at will during that tour, dismissing him on three out of six occasions.
“For me the problem in the UAE was I didn’t sweep at all,” Chase told Cricbuzz. “Yasir Shah was very consistent in that series, the fields that Misbah set for me, he stifled my strokeplay a lot through that and I realised it. After that in the Caribbean, I went back and worked on my sweeping, so that I can change the field up a little bit, it became easier for me to pick other gaps.”
Against three masterful Indian spinners at Hyderabad, Chase adapted beautifully. If his control against them in the first innings of the Rajkot Test was laudable, even more when put against the backdrop of his other teammates, his adaptability so far in Hyderabad has been exemplary too, where he didn’t try to over-hit and instead focused on manipulating the fields.
But it is not just his superior spin-handling skills that makes him special, his habit of prevailing in such tough times (Windies were 92 for 4 when he walked in to bat) too puts him a cut above the rest. His knock on Saturday had shades of his knock against Pakistan at his hometown, Barbados. On that day too, he had walked in to bat when the team were in dire straits (37 for 3) and while scoring a hundred, he found able company in Jason Holder, who returned a fifty. Had it not been for an ill-attempted slog from Shannon Gabriel in the following Test, Chase would have had his second successive ton in a triumphant cause. Triumphant because of the way he had brought the Windies almost safely to bay, from 93 for 6 to the second-last over, batting with the lower order.
In Hyderabad, it took him just 16 balls to find the fence when he whipped one off Ravindra Jadeja for a six over midwicket. Although the wicket didn’t do much on the first day, Chase’s ability to play with as much control, both off the backfoot and front, kept him at ease at the crease.
Chase likes to attack the spinners, having built his game around spin bowling with great expertise. But on Saturday, he guarded against his attacking instincts and used the fields to great effect by needling the singles and twos. His control was best summarised by Cricviz, who tweeted that he played only five false shots throughout his inning, showcasing an impeccable control rate of 94 percent.
Chase’s crisp footwork and resolute defense was the key aspect of the innings. Having faced 174 deliveries, he played false shots to only 5 deliveries (2.8%), showing total control. 82 out of 98 runs came against spin, with the 40% of the runs coming from the off drive #INDvWI pic.twitter.com/DG2HmXZ5Se
— The Cricket Prof. (@CricProf) October 12, 2018
His penchant to succeed in tough times goes back to his initial days in West Indies’ domestic cricket when was struggling to find his own. For as many as four years, he had failed to make his mark, often spending more time on the sidelines than on the park. That is when Chase had a pragmatic chat with his mum, who set him a two-year deadline to do whatever it takes to make it big in cricket. And if he didn’t, he might as well look beyond the sport.
“I always looked to be a cricketer for the West Indies from a young age, so I always I had that expectation in me, even though I didn’t have a great start in first-class cricket. My mum then gave me the opportunity to play cricket, for two years, I can practise all I want and do what it takes for me to make it at that level and that really paid off for me,” Chase reflects.
“I would get up early in the mornings, go down to Kensington Oval and do my training, all this before the actual practice and normal training would begin with the guys. I think this really improved my game over that two-year period and then I was ready to shine at the first-class level before putting me on the international stage.”
Shine he did, in his breakthrough season – Professional Cricket League 2015-16 – scoring 710 runs and picking up 23 wickets. This huge contrast could be reflected by the fact that he had never bowled as much in the previous four seasons combined, picking lesser wickets than the one-season act. There was no looking back from thereon as he was handed his maiden Test cap soon after. In only his second Test, Chase put into the spotlight his ability to be the team’s hero in adversity. He starred with a fighting maiden century that helped Windies stave off defeat against India. Jason Holder, his captain, labelled him a fighter later that day. That tag has stuck with him.
Interestingly, the spin-bowling all-rounder, who delivers incredibly to the team’s balance especially beside the team’s prime spinner – Devendra Bishoo, didn’t quite begin as an offspinner. “I was always a batsman. I started off as one and used to bowl a bit of seam in primary school. But as I got into secondary school, I stopped bowling seam. I didn’t think I was strong enough to bat and bowl fast as well. I just started to bowl a bit offspin and bat.”
In fact, cricket, too, wasn’t his true calling with football, and track and field in the mix. But once he got to the Under-17 level, the fear of getting injured while playing football played a part in him choosing cricket.
On Saturday, he would be chasing his fourth ton. The fact that his other three have come when his team has been under the pump will make it even more special. As much as the Windies would want to avoid such crisis, they still know that Chase is always up for such challenges.