Roddy Estwick bumped into Brathwaite Chase in Barbados a couple of days after the Rajkot Test. And Chase was forthright, as always, about what he wanted the veteran coach to tell his son. “I hope you speak to Roston (Chase) about the shot he played in the last Test because he’s over-hitting the ball,” he told him. It was of course not the first time that Estwick had been asked by the “very vocal” cricket dad to show some tough love to one of his most famous pupils. Chase had been dismissed while trying an aerial shot off Kuldeep Yadav in the second innings during the first Test.
Though Estwick doesn’t reveal whether he passed on the advice from one Chase to another verbatim, whatever he said seems to have paid dividends. On Friday, the Bajan all-rounder not only rescued his team from yet another potential disaster, he also ended the day on the cusp of a deserved hundred. And Estwick insists that a “100” is not what the senior Chase is likely to be satisfied with. “I’m sure he won’t have even mentioned the ton when they would have spoken tonight. He would have asked Roston to look for a 150, if not 200,” says Estwick with a chuckle.
The former Barbados pacer, who was the West Indies bowling coach till last year, though is already pleased with what he saw of Chase on Friday. Even if it meant he had to sacrifice his sleep completely and spend the whole night in front of the television.
The two had spent around a week following the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) preparing for the Indian tour. Their sessions would start at 8 every morning with the major focus around Chase’s recent tendency to fall over across the crease, which was resulting in the right-hander trying to hit the ball too hard.
“Once you are falling across, you are not looking at the ball properly. I was just trying to get him to get his weight into the shot, which meant he didn’t have to hit the ball too hard. He’s a tall guy too and by falling over he was getting drawn into unnecessary shots,” Estwick explains.
It had taken Estwick all of one ball and one shot from the gangly and reserved youngster some 15 years ago to realize that he has seen a “special talent”. It was when Chase was playing an under-11 final for Wesley Hall Primary School and the man who would go on to become his cricketing mentor for the rest of his life just happened to be in attendance.
“I saw him play a square drive and I told the guy accompanying me ‘I’ve seen enough, this is a special talent’. I decided then and there to get him to the Combermere School,” Estwick recalls. Combermere, of course, not only possessed a rich legacy of cricketing talent but was also at that time home to a number of future West Indian cricketers.
“Amazingly, four of the boys from that batch are playing this Test. There’s Roston, Kraigg Brathwaite, (Jomel) Worrican and Shane Dowrich. But Roston always had that steely determination about him. He was always a leader from the first day he walked in,” Estwick adds.
Chase not only captained his school team for nearly six years—from first form to sixth—but also amassed an incredible record of never losing a single match during his reign. Inevitably, he also scored a lot of runs, including sharing a 300-run partnership in one of his early games for the school, and displayed a penchant for big scores that still holds true.
“He always wanted to be a professional cricketer. It would always be a fight to get him to do his school-work or to study. Eventually, he battled there too,” says Estwick, who also reveals how Chase had started off attempting medium-pace only to be told by the coach he would be better of bowling off-spin owing to his lanky frame.
Estwick also remembers Chase having always been a laidback young man with a fire in his belly and someone who never shies away from saying what he believes in within the dressing-room. “He believes in his ability and can move very soon from failures and disappointments. He would have taken the defeat in Rajkot personally and told the boys that ‘I got it wrong’ and not ‘we got it wrong’. That’s the kind of guy he is,” he says.
Chase of course is no stranger to India, having thwarted their hopes of a famous win at Sabina Park in 2016 with a typically backs-to-the-wall century on the final day. He then had lean tours of England and New Zealand, but Estwick is confident that the “naturally good player of spin” will enhance his game in conditions with lateral movement.
The only time, Estwick reveals, you’ll see the Zen-like Chase ever express any excitement is whenever he is playing FIFA on his Playstation. “He calls himself the world champion of FIFA games,” he says about the Paul Pogba fan, who despite his coach’s attempts to convert him into a Manchester United fan, remains devoted to Real Madrid. And it is an incident related to his football that Estwick reveals led to Chase’s most outwardly show of emotion.
“Last year in England while the team was playing football during their warm-ups, David Lloyd walked by and told him, ‘If you weren’t a cricketer, you would be worth 50 million pounds on the transfer market because you’re really good. I saw Roston light up like never before and tell everyone ‘see I told you so’.”