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Roston Chase is uniquely different from West Indies' other allrounders

A crisis man, a tidy bowler and a compact batter - Chase ticks all the boxes for WI

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
Roston Chase and Hayden Walsh Jr. slowed down India, India vs West Indies, 3rd T20I, Kolkata, February 20, 2022

Roston Chase and Hayden Walsh Jr. slowed down India  •  BCCI

Roston Chase wasn't meant to play any of the T20Is and was only picked as a back-up allrounder. He not only ended the T20I series as the highest wicket-taker across both teams, and all but sealed his spot as a bowling all-rounder, who can offer batting flexibility when the team needs it.
Early wickets lost, consolidation the need of the hour? Dial Chase. Wickets needed with the ball to win back some control? Dial Chase. Besides, Chase is also an excellent fielder inside the ring. He bowled his full quota of overs in each game; his six wickets in three games came at an economy of just 5.16.
Jason Holder's bruise on his chest prior to the series opener handed him an opportunity. In a modest 157 chase, India were cruising at 57 without loss when he was brought on. He bowled his four overs at a stretch mostly with a wet ball.
He used the crease to vary his lines, and then his tall frame to bowl it into the pitch and extract bounce. By not allowing batters to get underneath the flight on a two-paced surface, he kept India honest. The rewards for these were the wickets of Rohit Sharma and Ishan Kishan. He finished the first T20I with figures of 4-0-14-2.
In the second T20I, West Indies won a crucial toss and elected to bowl because of heavy dew. This time, Chase wasn't a last-minute inclusion, but a first XI player in place of Fabian Allen, who was meant to start. Chase's terrific effort in the series opener had swayed the team management into playing him again.
This time, he had better conditions to show off his wares. India began to get off the blocks quickly, with Rohit and Virat Kohli playing in a refreshingly attacking manner. Kohli batted with freedom and positivity, hitting six boundaries off his first 15 deliveries. When Chase came on to bowl in the eighth over, Kohli had raced to 29 off 18, Rohit was on 18 off 16. The signs were ominous, and he delivered yet again.
Chase's tall frame helps him operate with different trajectories compared to Allen or Akeal Hosein, the other two spin bowling allrounders. And he used every bit of it to his advantage. Four balls into his spell, he dismissed Rohit for the second time in the series, by having him slice a lofted hit to cover.
Chase can land the ball on the same spot - much like Washington Sundar does for India - and he mixes this with subtle changes in grip. The one that got Rohit held its line instead of spinning in because he bowled it with a scrambled seam. Rohit, who was looking to muscle it over cover ended up slicing it to the fielder at the edge of the ring. Off his next over, he enticed Suryakumar Yadav to drive, only to get the ball to dip and spin as he gobbled up a forceful push.
Chase ensured India didn't hit a single boundary between the end of the powerplay and the start of the 13th over. After a pulsating beginning, Kohli had managed just 10 runs off his next 15 balls during Chase's spell, with two big wickets having fallen. Once again, his subtle mastery was at play, allowing Pollard a degree of control over proceedings. Four overs of mayhem at the end - where the fast bowlers repeatedly lost their lengths and bowled into the slot - allowed Rishabh Pant and Venkatesh Iyer to feast on the bowling to set up a target of 187, which the visitors fell short of.
On Sunday, Chase was once again at the forefront for West Indies. Not allowing India's fearless band to break away initially. They wanted to bat with freedom and made four changes with the series in the bag. In came Chase again, keeping them honest and in the process. Kishan's frustration stemmed from his inability to step out to Chase.
The lengths he bowled didn't allow him to go back and pull either, because it was the "in-between" length Chase often goes back to as a default setting. Eventually, he'd have Kishan bowled trying to pull a delivery that held on to the surface and had him play early. Once again, he bowled out with West Indies having a degree of control, with Rohit and Suryakumar Yadav having to rebuild the innings. Allen, the man who was set to play ahead of him when the series started, bowled just one wicketless over. How the tide had turned. If not for some poor death bowling, West Indies may have found themselves chasing 20 fewer than the 185 they were set.
While his bowling has come up leaps and bounds, Chase the batter struggled for any sort of rhythm. In the first game, he pottered his way around before falling lbw to a Ravi Bishnoi googly. In the third, he came in much later, after the cream of the batting had all been dismissed in pursuit of a big target. For someone who is seen as an accumulator, who can shift up and down the order based on conditions, these were disappointing series with the bat.
In a line-up full of explosive power, Chase is often seen as the calm amid the storm. His presence gives West Indies a degree of comfort with the bat at the best of times. He is an excellent player of spin because of the assuredness in his footwork. His role is mainly to knock the ball around after the power plays, pick up occasional boundaries and allow the power-hitters to come into their own.
This has been the DNA of his T20 game ever since he made a serious pitch as a T20 player in 2020, when he was named as a replacement player in the CPL by St Lucia Kings. In the following season, he repaid the faith by being the season's MVP, which got him a maiden T20 World Cup call-up. While his bowling continues to be on the rise, Chase will hope his batting returns in India were an aberration. If he can offer West Indies a bit more flexibility, his presence, amid a succession of bowling allrounders in Allen, Hosein, Odean Smith, Jason Holder and Romario Shepherd will help build a bouquet of options T20 teams around the world yearn for.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo