Baker blasts USACA, demands changes
Former USA captain Orlando Baker has criticised the USA Cricket Association administration, saying USACA president Gladstone Dainty and coach Robin Singh are responsible for USA's recent relegation to Division Four of the World Cricket League. Baker, 35, says USA's players are treated "like they're in Guantanamo Bay" and the team's on-field fortunes will continue to suffer unless new leadership takes charge.
Baker captained USA last year to an 8-0 record at the ICC Americas Division One T20 tournament in Florida but was not considered for the Division Three tournament last month in Malaysia tour due to a recent back injury, a USACA selector told ESPNcricinfo. Baker initially approached ESPNcricinfo to speak prior to the Division Three on the condition that his comments not be made public until after the tournament so as not to become a distraction to his team-mates. However, Baker remained firm in his views when speaking to ESPNcricinfo at the conclusion of Division Three.
"For me to continue playing for the US, there have to be a lot of changes," Baker told ESPNcricinfo in an interview following Division Three. "I don't think I can continue like this. There have to be a lot of changes. Changes in preparation, changes in coaching, administration.
"Somebody has to go there [criticise USACA] and it's right that it be a senior person," Baker said. "I don't expect the younger guys to do it. I think it's been going on for too long. People have been sugar-coating and covering it up. Cricket is going down tour by tour. Since I joined the US team under Dainty as president, tell me what progress do you see? I don't see any progress from USACA, from the head.
"If you fail to prepare you prepare to fail," Baker added. "You can't be coming into a high-profile tournament with only two days of preparation when you get into Malaysia. For players young and old, there's no structure. From a USACA perspective, they don't care."
Baker's chief gripe with the Dainty-led USACA administration is the lack of funding spent on player preparation and development compared to the much larger sums of money USACA has spent on lawyers to defend the organisation in legal battles over the past several years.
As for Singh, Baker alleged the coach resorted to intimidation tactics that are counterproductive and wind up breaking down team morale rather than serving to motivate players, a sentiment shared by other members of the USA men's team who were contacted by ESPNcricinfo but did not wish to be quoted.
"The disrespect that Robin Singh brings to a changing room can kill a team no matter how good the team is and no matter how big a coach is," Baker said. "You don't talk to a grown man like they're kids. That's what Robin carry. He bullies the players to play his brand of cricket. He can't bully me, he can't bully a Tim Allen, a Barrington Bartley because we're from the same culture and we don't take certain disrespect. We will not take it so he knows who to pick his fights with."
Baker also claimed that players have been unnerved by Singh openly calling out individuals in front of the team rather than doing it in private conversation to avoid any embarrassment. One incident that stands out for Baker, and has been corroborated to ESPNcricinfo by multiple USA players, was a confrontation between Singh and vice-captain Timroy Allen in the USA change room at the innings break of a warm-up match against Nepal in Abu Dhabi ahead of last year's World T20 Qualifier.
According to Baker and other players, Singh was unhappy with the lengths Allen bowled in the final over of the Nepal innings, during which Allen took a wicket but also conceded a four and a six. When Allen came off the field, he was scolded by Singh in front of the team, sparking a heated confrontation - audible to members of the other team - in which Singh allegedly told Allen to leave the tour before the team manager eventually intervened. Baker characterised the scene as "almost World War III".
Baker says his own relationship with Singh has deteriorated to the point where he will no longer play for the coach. Upon leaving the UAE tour in November with a ligament injury in his right ankle, Baker says he was heading downstairs from his room in the team hotel to get a ride to the airport when Singh joined him in the elevator. According to Baker, the two rode the elevator in silence down to the lobby and the moment still stings Baker nearly a year later.
"I never forget that night," Baker said. "How can you tell me you have US cricket at heart? Show me what has Robin Singh done? [Clayton] Lambert took us from Division Five to Division Three and he was pushing the side because he stood up and talked to Mr. Dainty."
ESPNcricinfo reached out to both Dainty and Singh but requests for a comment in response to Baker went unreturned.
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna