“It is good to see that he has established himself in the Test arena, but that should not be the reason to take things easily”
While India have a couple of valuable spin all-rounders in their ranks, West Indies have managed to find just the one in the last few years and that happens to be Roston Chase. Chase in his short Test career has negotiated India quite well. Back in 2016 when Chase made his debut against India back in the Caribbean, he entered the record books, becoming only the fourth West Indies player to score a century and pick up a 5-wicket haul in a Test. West Indies have never been the side they were back in the 70s, 80s and even in the early 90s, they have found a few cricketers every now and then, who put in some memorable performances that will not be forgotten for a long time – Like Shai Hope’s twin tons at Leeds or Kraigg Brathwaite’s remaining unbeaten throughout an entire Test against Pakistan at Sharjah. Overcoming obstacles under pressure is the mark of an excellent player and Chase has shown such glimpses already.
It was not a memorable performance from any of the West Indies players. But there is always scope for improvement and West Indies have to turn things around quickly, if they are to put any sort of pressure on India. That is where someone like chase could come in handy. He is not just a gritty middle-order batsman, but is also a spinner and alongside Devendra Bishoo, he can certainly wreak havoc, if he bowls at the right areas. But given that batting is his main strength, he should definitely be playing a little higher in the batting order than his usual No. 6.
His unbeaten 137 at Jamaica in just his second Test helped Windies draw the Test. His unbeaten 101 against Pakistan at Roseau would have helped West Indies draw the match if it wasn’t for Shannon Gabriel’s hoick right at the end. Since that knock in May 2017, Chase has not scored heavily. In fact, he has scored just 3 fifties in 24 innings since that century and West Indies will need him to step up to the plate once again at Hyderabad.
Even with the ball, Chase has never been consistent. There have been occasions when the captain has not even tossed the ball to him. For a spinner, a captain’s backing is very crucial, but given that Chase is not a genuine wicket-taking bowler, the captain has to look elsewhere when there is a need to pick up wickets.
Sure, Chase is not the only talented player West Indies have at their disposal, but it is important to realise that he is a genuine match-winner or match-saver in the side. Not many who visit India for the first time do well, but given his temperament, Chase can certainly dig deep and find a way to survive. He showed glimpses of calmness in the first innings at Rajkot, when he slammed a fifty.
However, chase has a lot to work on when it comes to his bowling. He started taking his bowling seriously only in the 2015-16 season, when he picked up 23 wickets in the season for Barbados, having picked up just 16 wickets in the previous 4 seasons.
For West Indies to make full use of Chase, he has to work on his bowling as well. He might get away in unfavourable conditions, but in the subcontinent, the ball sometimes starts turning right from Day One and it would be naive for any spinner not to make use of that.
This West Indies team is still an inexperienced one, with players like Sunil Ambris and Shimron Hetmeyer just coming into the fold. The results will not follow right away and hence there is a need to be patient. However, the problem lies when some of the experienced ones play like amateurs, leaving the newbies to fend for themselves. West Indies will hope that the Rajkot Test is a one-off Test where everything that could possibly go wrong, went wrong.
It will not harm West Indies to have a spin coach as well. They have Alfonso Thomas as their bowling coach. But teams like Australia in the past have had former spinners like S Sriram or Muttiah Muralitharan as the spin bowling coach or consultants especially when they tour the subcontinent. This has helped the players negotiate much better in Asia and more importantly has given the team’s spinners idea of how to bowl in such conditions. We saw Australia do well in Bangladesh and India last year as a result. Could work with the Windies as well.
Chase is by no means a finished product. He still has a lot to work on. While his batting continues to improve, his bowling should not suffer. Unless Chase becomes a good bowler, he will never realise his true potential.
It is good to see that he has established himself in the Test arena, but that should not be the reason to take things easily. Improving and honing your skills continuously is what will help you survive at the highest level for a long period of time. Chase is hopefully just getting started.