GAME PLAN: Chase defies the chasing pack

Jaideep Ghosh

Kingston: West Indies' batsman Marlon Samuels is bowled by India's Mohammed Shami during day four of their second cricket Test match at the Sabina Park Cricket Ground in Kingston, Jamaica, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016. Photo: AP/PTI

Kingston: West Indies’ batsman Marlon Samuels is bowled by India’s Mohammed Shami during day four of their second cricket Test match at the Sabina Park Cricket Ground in Kingston, Jamaica, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016.
Photo: AP/PTI

With the Rio de Janeiro Olympics well and truly on us, it would only be fair to assume that cricket will soon take a back seat, at least for 15 days, to the biggest sporting event in the world.

So it would be opportune, I guess, to acknowledge the India-West Indies Test series in the Caribbean before we shift out attention further south.

Roston Chase will always be a source of smart headlines – Classy Chase ends in draw etc. – as the West Indies finally showed quite some spine to fight off what was an almost sure defeat at Kingston, in the face of overwhelming odds.

This match comes as a delight to ardent followers and supporters of Test cricket.

When India and the West Indies landed in Jamaica, the overwhelming impression was that the visitors would go two-up in the series. It was not a matter of ‘if’, not ‘when’.

So it looked till the fourth day, when The West Indies, a hefty 200 runs plus in debit, began as they have in most matches in the recent past – with little in terms of a challenge.

Four wickets fell on a day that was largely interrupted by the weather, which took hours off the Test.

There is a school of thought that India would have won, had the match continued on Day Four. Possibly, since they had the momentum.

But what ensued on Day Five was something that West Indian cricket has not seen in a long time.

Kingston: West Indies' Roston Chase shows the ball as walks to the pavilion after taking five wickets against India declared on day three of their second cricket Test match at the Sabina Park Cricket Ground in Kingston, Jamaica, Monday, Aug. 1, 2016. India declared their innings at 500 runs for 9 wickets.  Photo: AP/PTI

Kingston: West Indies’ Roston Chase shows the ball as walks to the pavilion after taking five wickets against India declared on day three of their second cricket Test match at the Sabina Park Cricket Ground in Kingston, Jamaica, Monday, Aug. 1, 2016. India declared their innings at 500 runs for 9 wickets.
Photo: AP/PTI

The challenge was masterminded by Chase, an unheard-of commodity till this series. He was impressive with his off-spin when India batter, as he garnered a five-wicket haul against stiff odds.

But his real value came to the forefront when the West Indies were once more with their backs to the wall, the score reading 48 for four at stumps on the penultimate day.

Jermaine Blackwood was joined by Chase the next morning, and the rest was quite an amazing defiance of a much higher rated bowling attack.

Blackwood and Chase added 93 runs for the fifth wicket, followed by a stand of 144 for the sixth between Chase and young wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich.

India could have won even after this. All it needed was a moment of madness from Chase, and the gates may have opened.

But he did not flinch. The 24-year-old Barbadian, with a very simple action as a bowler and equally uncomplicated stance as a batsman, played to his strengths and conquered India’s challenge. He played the spinners late, and met the medium-pacers with courage.

He kept his partners going and with him in such defiant and dominant form, it would have been a shame if they hadn’t stood up to be counted.

Blackwood did, as did Dowrich. Then skipper Jason Holder came in and played out an unbeaten 103-run stand with Chase as Virat Kohli and his side finally had to accept that this one wasn’t going their way.

Quite an achievement, especially for a side that seemed to desperately short of ideas and fight, not just in the first Test of the series but generally, against all opposition.

It could still well be that the series will go India’s way – the Caribbeans, for all the fight in Kingston, seem woefully ill-equipped to actually win, especially since their bowling is just not up to the mark.

But that said, this was cricket in its most vintage form. The Test was threatening to be a slow, one-sided affair. It ended up being slow still, but with one side struggling to fight off the odds, it made for fascinating watching.

That’s all you can hope for really – a fight. That is what makes any sport what it is.

Rio de Janeiro: The Indian table tennis team at the Olympic Games Village in Rio on Monday, Aug 1, 2016. Photo: PTI

Rio de Janeiro: The Indian table tennis team at the Olympic Games Village in Rio on Monday, Aug 1, 2016.
Photo: PTI

Olympic hopes: Caught on one television channel this morning. “This is your first Olympics,” said the reporter sent to Rio to cover the event, while speaking to the women’s hockey team. “Go ahead and enjoy yourself.”

Really? The Olympics is a platform to go and “enjoy”?

Maybe it is, since we seem to have an ever-growing number of athletes going to such Games, with the returns never being moderate.

So maybe it is indeed about enjoying yourselves. Quite an expensive holiday. But if you’re not footing the bill, not so much of a crisis, is it?

One would assume teams are sent to the Olympics for more than just having fun. Maybe a medal or two would help.

Or maybe that’s just us being unreasonable. After all, participating is what is more important.

Still, some medals wouldn’t hurt, would they?