BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) – Chairman of selectors Courtney Browne has described Twenty20 World Cup hero, Carlos Brathwaite, as an “investment” in West Indies cricket and argues his inclusion to face England in the three-match One-Day International series should not be viewed purely in terms of recent form.The 28-year-old all-rounder’s selection has been questioned in some quarters especially in light of his recent failures but Browne said Brathwaite was still at a very early stage of his development and the selection panel was focused on getting the best out of him.“He’s a young player who is a very exciting player on his day, who hasn’t played a lot of international cricket either. He’s an investment and we all know if we get him right what he can produce for us,” Browne said in a radio interview here.“We would have seen him in the T20 World Cup but one of the things is if you sit and hear, say a coach or captain, speak about Carlos Brathwaite it is a bit different.”He continued: “The way how 50-overs cricket is played now, where there are power-plays and there are certain bowlers you go for in power-plays and certain bowlers you don’t. And Carlos’s strike rate would be more than the other bowlers because of the time of the games when he bowls.“Not that I am saying that is in any way a reason not to perform but we have to take into consideration he’s still a young player at the international level. There are so much things. We have a very young team and … the selection panel we sat and we talked about all players, and we all felt that Carlos Brathwaite was still someone that we can get a lot out of.”Brathwaite shot to prominence last April when he smashed massive sixes off the first four balls of the last over to propel West Indies to a dramatic victory over England in the final of the Twenty20 World Cup.Since those heroics, his form in ODIs has been ordinary, with a meagre 157 runs coming from 12 appearances at a lowly average of 15.7, while taking 17 wickets with his medium pace.Overall, Brathwaite averages just 13 with the bat from 20 ODIs and has taken 21 wickets at 40.Browne contended Brathwaite should not be measured against his exploits at the T20 World Cup, especially since he was still relatively new to international cricket.“What you must understand is this is still a young man. If (he sit) and we expect Carlos to repeat what he did in the World Cup every single time, we’re going to fool ourselves,” the former Test wicketkeeper explained.“Carlos needs to develop like any other cricketer. We’ve dug ourselves in a massive hole over the years, there’s no quick fix to our problem. It is about hard work. It’s about getting our players out there, developing our players.“It’s not about ‘you’ve had five games, you have not performed’ so just throw (the player away). It’s about helping players to develop and realising their full potential.”Brathwaite, who was elevated to the T20 captaincy last year, was a vital part of the Barbados Pride squad that won the Regional Super50 title last weekend in Antigua.Batting down the order and mostly coming at the crunch, he managed 91 runs from eight outings and snared eight wickets.Browne said it was important players like Brathwaite were given an extended run in order to prove themselves.“When you look at our players, there are some who have been given a little extension because you want them to develop,” he noted.“We don’t want to have a case where you have a whole bunch of players – like what used to happen in the past – where we had so many players, all of them had games under their belts but none ever got a good extension or fair run to help them to develop. We need to develop cricketers.“We are number eight in the world because we put ourselves there by playing bad cricket over the years by making bad decisions. We have to develop a team, it is hard work but the one thing I must say about Carlos and a lot of the other players, we have players now who actually want to play, we have players who are committed, they are self-starters, they work hard.“When you see players who are doing that, you know that you will be able to create that environment that is conducive to producing cricketers that can perform consistently.”
Junior wide receiver Michael Pittman runs down the field during spring practice. (Josh Dunst/Daily Trojan) There are a handful of players who seem to have made strides from where they were last year and look poised to step up for the Trojans. Freshman defensive back Britton Allen has shown promise, offering impressive tenacity in the secondary with a penchant for stripping out the ball. Sophomore Devon Williams has been putting together his unique combination of top-end speed and incredible length at 6-foot-4 to become a dangerous receiving weapon. Besides tangible changes to the team’s offensive strategy, there’s been a concerted effort to change elements of the team philosophy as a whole with toughness and discipline at its core. The team as realized it needs to work on accountability after a 2018 season that saw them average almost 14 penalties per game, and the coaching staff is determined not to let that happen again. Former offensive coordinator Tee Martin has been replaced by former University of North Texas head coach Graham Harrell. Harrell brings with him the dynamic air-raid offense; a system that’s spread quickly across the college football landscape in recent years, yet has never appearing at USC until now. The Trojans have long maintained a traditional pro-style offense, built on deep drops from under center, long developing routes and multi-level reads. The air-raid, on the other hand, emphasizes stretching the field both horizontally and vertically, generally putting the quarterback in a shotgun alignment and allowing him to make quick and often simple reads. There are now live referees throwing flags on any penalties at every practice. It’s already seemed to have paid rapid dividends, as there’s been a noticeable drop in violations since the first day of practice. Whether or not it carries over to real games will remain to be seen, but it’s a promising start. Two weeks into Spring Football, it’s already clear that the Trojans will be doing things very differently this year. Looking to bounce back from their worst season in 19 years, head coach Clay Helton and his staff have are shaking things up across the board. The system encourages simplicity from players across the formation, allowing them to focus more directly on executing individual tasks without needing to process the entirety of the play. Multiple players have mentioned that the simplicity of the air raid allows them to “play fast,” relieving them of the weight of processing too many moving parts during each play. That difference has shown on the field, with the offense running a surprisingly high number of offensive plays in practice for this early in the offseason. Although a two-week sample size isn’t much to work with, a number of players already seem to be ready to serve as key contributors for the upcoming season. Some are unsurprising — veteran receivers Tyler Vaughns and Michael Pittman, linebacker John Houston and defensive tackle Jay Tufele have all shown up to work, picking up from where they left off. The shift to the air raid has been evident in almost every aspect of practice so far. There’s been an emphasis on letting the offense just run, even this early into training without the absorption of an entire pro-style playbook. Redshirt junior receiver Tyler Vaughns, now one of the team’s upperclassmen, commented on the benefits of that fact. Some of last year’s impact freshman also seem to be in their stride — linebacker Palaie Gaoteote has remained a standout and receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown has been as consistent as ever. Talanoa Hufanga had been looking even better at safety than he did last year, though an injury in Saturday’s practice makes his future status unclear. Hufanga had a fantastic freshman season until a collarbone injury took him out for the year. The same injury that seems to have been re-aggravated despite his non-contact designation in practice. “We’re getting more live reps which I like,” Vaughns said. “We’re getting more team reps and everything like that, so it’s really helping us as an offense.” Two sophomores who played a very limited role last year have stepped up in these two weeks. Running back Markese Stepp, buried on the depth chart for most of last year, has been a force on the practice field. Stepp is a runaway freight train at 235 pounds, bulldozing defenders with regularity. With the sidelining of Stephen Carr and Vavae Malepeai to the flu, Stepp has received many first team reps and shown showing ability to catch the ball out of the backfield along with being a punishing runner. On the other side of the ball, sophomore cornerback Isaac Taylor-Stuart missed most of last season due to injury after playing mostly special teams early in the year, never receiving an opportunity to play real game snaps on defense. Taylor-Stuart is tremendously gifted as an athlete, with blazing speed to go with his impressive frame of 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, but his lack of refined technique held him back in the early stages of his freshman year. However, he’s become one of the first-string corners and his continued improvement could be one of the most important factors in the success of the Trojan defense come fall.