Former USA captain Orlando Baker has officially announced his retirement at age 35. Baker was at the helm for USA in March 2013 when they posted an undefeated 8-0 record to win the ICC Americas Division One Twenty20 title for the second time. USA had previously won the inaugural regional Twenty20 title in 2010, with Baker being named Man of the Match in the final against Canada.
"I've played long enough and given everything that I have," Baker told ESPNcricinfo. "I think it's just time now for some younger guys to come up. I enjoy playing for the country. It's an honour and a pleasure and something I enjoy but all good things must come to an end. After speaking to my wife, my attorney and my boss, I decided it's time for me to walk away."
Born in Jamaica, Baker came through the local youth system and opened the batting for the same Jamaica Under-19 team as his close friend Chris Gayle. After playing one first-class game for Jamaica, Baker migrated to New York in 2001 before transitioning to Texas in 2007 where his US domestic career took off at Dallas County Cricket Club under the guidance of Suhas Naik. He made his USA debut in 2008 and became arguably USA's best allrounder of the last decade.
Baker's career statistics highlight his durability and multi-skilled value to the team. He leaves as the second-most capped 50-over player for USA with 50 games and is one of only three players, along with Steve Massiah and Sushil Nadkarni, to have scored more than 1000 career runs in the format, finishing on 1019 at an average of 26.82. He also ends tied for fourth overall in 50-over wickets with 41 at an average of 24.05 and an economy rate of 3.99. He is the only USA player to be in the top 10 for both runs and wickets in 50-over cricket.
Baker was a similarly steady contributor in Twenty20 cricket for USA. He was their most experienced player in the format, with 33 matches until last month when he was overtaken by Steven Taylor, against Canada in the final of the ICC Americas Division One Twenty20. Baker is third on the list for most T20 runs for USA with 402, behind only Nadkarni and Taylor, at an average of 21.16 and ninth on wickets' list with 15 at 22.27.
After a modest debut tour to Jersey as part of USA's squad at ICC WCL Division Five in 2008, Baker's major breakthrough for USA came against Canada later that year in the ICC Americas Division One Championship. Entering at 88 for 6, he scored 38 as part of a 105-run partnership with Aditya Thyagarajan and then ripped through Canada's middle order by taking 5 for 31 in an 81-run win.
"That game really opened the door for me in terms of guys knowing what I could really do," Baker said. "Even though I bowled well in Jersey, I didn't pick up a lot of wickets. I was just economical. Coming back against Canada on a good wicket in Florida, I had a point to prove. I batted at No. 8 in that game but it didn't worry me because I was new to the team and whatever the game plan was and whatever the team required I was willing to do.
"I batted every position for the USA in my career. A few of the guys like Steve Massiah and some of the Jamaicans knew what I was capable of doing. Rashard Marshall gave me the nickname '10 Straight' because that's what Massiah would call me to do, come on in the middle and bowl 10 overs straight."
In addition to the century stand in that win against Canada, Baker paired with Thyagarajan for a series of other memorable partnerships. After being 25 for 6 against Ireland in the 2010 ICC World T20 Qualifier, the pair produced an unbeaten 99-run seventh-wicket stand that was a T20 record for more than five years until Harbhajan Singh and J Suchith put on 100 in April for Mumbai Indians against Kings XI Punjab. However, Baker and Thyagarajan still hold USA's highest partnership record for any wicket in 50-over cricket, putting on 213 for the fifth wicket against Argentina in 2010. Baker also produced his career-best score that day - 113 off 108 balls after opening the batting - in a 119-run victory.
However, he says one of his proudest achievements was captaining the USA squad to the ICC Americas Division One Twenty20 title in Florida in 2013. Baker was tasked with leading a very raw squad as most of the senior players were missing, but the team gelled quickly to go 8-0.
"Going into that tournament after I was selected and named as captain, I felt confident," he said. "I knew the guys I was going to lead were a lot of younger guys but I had captained a lot coming through the youth ranks in Jamaica growing up. I had captained my school team to a school boy championship. I knew what it took to lead young guys and the respect I had from the young guys wasn't hard to get back. I just told them to go out and express themselves and be yourself. I tried to joke around with them because if you're not having fun, you're not going to do well. I didn't want to put pressure on anyone."
Baker made waves last November for his stinging criticism of USA Cricket Association's leadership, following USA's relegation from WCL Division Three in October. He said he hoped it would lead to the organisation making earnest reforms toward supporting the players better but is disappointed that little has changed in the time since.
"I didn't expect younger guys to speak up so I did it because I wanted them to make changes. I wanted them to see that players are being hurt by not getting preparation for tournaments. I haven't seen anything change. Guys were supposed to go to Jamaica for a pre-tournament camp after the Americas Cup and leading into Ireland, I haven't seen nothing. They were supposed to go to Jamaica before Indianapolis and that didn't happen. What kind of preparation are these guys getting? Nepal named an 18-man squad and they go to India on a pre-tour camp. What is USACA doing? It's not fair to go to a major tournament preparing on your own. USACA doesn't respect the players."
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna