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Feature

'I see myself as someone who could be the No. 1 allrounder some day'

The West Indies allrounder is happy to take the opportunities that come his way and not rush things, although, a maiden ODI hundred, against India, would be a sweet way to end the year

Saurabh Somani
13-Dec-2019
Roston Chase takes part in a training session, Antigua, January 30, 2019

"My role in the one-day team, as Polly [captain Kieron Pollard] spoke to me before the series, was merely to be a bowler. In case I got a chance to bat early or we are in trouble, my role was just to bat what I know"  •  AFP/Getty Images

Roston Chase is something of an enigma in the West Indies team. He made a match-saving hundred in only his second Test, but averages only 31.38 in the format. For a bowler who comes in as second or third change most times, he has better innings figures in Test cricket than Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall, Courtney Walsh, Andy Roberts and Joel Garner. And while he's got the all-round skills to be a valuable member of the one-day team, Chase has been in only 22 of the 59 ODIs that West Indies have played since he made his debut in the format.
None of that is evident when you watch him go about his job. He has a languid calm with the bat and a business-like approach with the ball. It's much the same when he speaks. He was left out of West Indies' squad for the World Cup, a decision that puzzled a fair few people, but he has marked his comeback to the ODI set-up with spectacular returns. In West Indies' 3-0 sweep of Afghanistan last month, Chase was the Man of the Series, as much for his bowling as his batting.
"In the team, I see myself as an allrounder now," Chase said. "When I first started, I wasn't too confident in my bowling. But over the last couple of years I've worked with Mushy [former Pakistan legspinner Mushtaq Ahmed currently consulting with West Indies] and I've been working very hard on my bowling.
"I really see myself as someone who could be the No. 1 allrounder in the world some day, so I try to work hard on both aspects of my game. I'm learning a bit more about my bowling as my career goes on. I'm very happy with where it's at right now, but I want to keep improving so that I can give my team the best chance of winning more games and series."
In the three ODIs against Afghanistan, Chase made 145 runs at 72.50, and batted at No. 4 twice in three games. But he had been picked more for his offspin, or at least that's how he saw it.
"My role in the one-day team, as Polly [captain Kieron Pollard] spoke to me before the series, was merely to be a bowler. In case I got a chance to bat early or we are in trouble, my role was just to bat what I know. I didn't really have to go out there and improvise. I just had to bat how I bat in a Test match: play the ball on merit and if I get any bad ball, just put them away. Just keep it ticking over.
"Getting the opportunity to bat at No. 4, I got some runs [94 in the first ODI]. And then in the last game, I batted at No. 7 and got some runs as well. Shai Hope played a brilliant innings, getting a hundred, and I helped him to take us over the line. The required rate was a run a ball, so it was a pressure situation seeing that I was the last recognised batsman. I thought I played it well.
"I'm maturing in white-ball cricket. My role in this team is to just tick it over, not do anything extravagant. Rotate the strike and play what I know."
For all the skills he's shown under pressure, it's surprising that Chase hasn't cracked T20 cricket yet. He has only played five T20s overall, three of those for Barbados Tridents in the 2018 CPL.
"I wouldn't call myself a Test specialist, but I'm not going to rush it. As I get more experience with white-ball cricket and more opportunities to showcase my talent, I think that will come. I'm not really thinking too hard about it or rushing that part of my game."
That's also how Chase's game has appeared, calm and unrushed, right from the start. In Dominica in 2017 against Pakistan, Chase had batted over six hours and was one over shy of saving the Test when No. 11 Shannon Gabriel played the infamous slog that gave Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan a winning farewell. Because of the drama in the end, Chase's contributions in the game are often overlooked. He made 69 and 101 not out and took five wickets.
"That was a tough one, seeing the position we were in and then the result that came out of the game," Chase said. "In the first innings, I got struck on my arm and I had an injury. It was one of those innings where I tried to bat deep and tried to fight as hard as I could. It wasn't enough in the end. We still ended up losing that match and the series, but it was still a good game. We fought to the end, tried our best. That is a bittersweet one for me."
Did he feel upset with Gabriel for playing that thoughtless shot?
"At that time, I was actually emotionless. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know what to think. It was happening in front of my eyes, but I didn't really know what was going on. Can't say I was vexed at Gabriel. It was only when I sat down and thought about it after the game that I just realised how close we were to saving the Test. It just hurt a bit more then. I've never spoken to him about it. I just let that be that and moved on from it."
It was even more bittersweet because of what had come before. In the previous Test, Chase had weathered hostile spells from Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Abbas to crack a century on his home ground in a West Indian win.
"I think that one is my favourite hundred because I did it in front of my home crowd. My family and my friends came to watch me. The Kensington Oval is one of my favourite grounds to play on as well. It was a very good innings and I thought that was the best I've ever played in Test cricket."
Chase also has scored two Test hundreds against India. His maiden one helped save the game in Kingston in 2016, and then there was the away hundred in Hyderabad in 2018 against the triple spin threat of R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav and the furious reverse swing of Umesh Yadav.
And earlier this year, he had his best moment with the ball in international cricket, once again in his hometown, when he took 8 for 60 in a huge Test win over England.
"I never thought I would get eight wickets in a Test match, especially in that game. In the first innings, we bowled them out very cheaply [for 77] and I didn't even bowl a ball. I thought that if I got to bowl in the second innings, it would probably be just a holding role. But I came on, the ball was coming out well, and again, it was in front of my home crowd. I just find that whenever I'm in front of the home crowd, it is a different feeling. You just always want to impress. Give the fans something to cherish or talk about. When I got the wicket of Joe Root [his second wicket in the innings], my confidence went over the roof. From there, everything just went well for me."
In fact, in 2019, things have gone fairly well for Chase, despite the World Cup snub. In one-day cricket, particularly, he seems to have found his groove. He's striking with the bat at 83.03 and he's been entrusted with the ball a lot more too, delivering with an average of 31.62 and an economy rate of 3.95.
If one final box is ticked during the upcoming ODI series against India, Chase might look back at this year as the one in which he established himself as a 50-overs allrounder.
"If I get to go early, I'd like to get a maiden ODI century. Just look to do as well for my team as I can. With the ball, just look to continue where I left off in the Afghanistan series. Be that bowler for the captain in the middle overs."

Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo