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The Best Player Never To Represent America -Orlando Baker

By Orin Davidson

Good cricketers are known for any manner of accomplishment or feat of genius.

Some are remembered for brilliant batting, bowling or fielding displays, but Orlando Baker is known for being the best cricketer never to represent the United States.

And he has many memorable feats to prove his case.

His most memorable is scoring back to back double centuries on successive days in limited overs competition.

To date he is the lone player in United States history to notch the feat.
To score a century in any form of cricket is a great honor, but to pile up double centuries in one-day competition is unheard of. And to record two, two days in a row is earth shattering.

Competition might be substandard in the U.S. compared to the sport’s established nations, but for anyone to match Baker’s feat, he must be bigger than a mega star.

The epic accomplishment made Baker one of the most respected young players in New York and the entire United States.

He earned a string of plaudits as a result, but the one he likes best is being renamed the Master Blaster.

Not that he is a savage hitter of the ball, but Baker is an attacking player without possessing the ball beating aura of the original Master Blaster Sir Vivian Richards.

He has most of the shots in the book and the mental awareness to go with it, which makes him capable of scoring big anytime he wants.

In every season since migrating to the United States in 2001, the batting/all-rounder topped more than 400 runs in every full competition he played in.

Only once has he failed to record a century in any one series, which occurred in 2005.
It was probably a letdown after he amassed the two double centuries the preceding year in 2004.

In that season, he rattled off more than 1000 runs for Villagers in the Metropolitan League, which is outside of his exploits for Calypso Club in the Washington League, a few hundred miles away in DC.

On Saturday July 3, he cracked 204 not out against Metro 2 in a 40 overs a side clash there. After hitting road for the trip back to the Big Apple, Baker returned the next day Sunday to hammer 217 also not out for Villagers against Lucas in the Metropolitan League, in a 35 overs a side contest.

“That is a record I always talk about and is very proud of, because no one else ever came close to doing it,” Baker boasts.

With his accomplishments, the attractive right-hand batsman should be an automatic selection for any United States national team. But his status did not allow him to travel and he had to be content representing his new club Cosmos in the Metropolitan League and New York in the national Regional Championships.

Now that he has regularized his paperwork and acquired residential status, Baker is now free to transfer his success to the international stage.

But the talented all-rounder will not lose any sleep worrying when he will be selected.
“If they pick me, I will accept, but I will not put myself under any pressure to make them pick me,” Baker declares.

His seeming indifference stems from harsh experiences suffered in his native Jamaica.

The gifted top order batsman and medium pace bowler was a promising young prospect who rated in the same bracket as West Indies players Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Wavell Hinds, Carlton Baugh and leading national selectees like Leon Garrick, Tamar Lambert and Brenton Parchment.

He was teammates with Gayle and Samuels in the Jamaica Under-19 team for two years in the West Indies Northern Telecom competition in 1996 & 97.

In those two competitions he played against the likes of current West Indies vice captain Ramnaresh Sarwan and his current teammates Corey Collymore and Runako Morton.

His returns were credible with the bat and ball and were among the team’s best in the1997 competition staged in Guyana . Baker says he fondly remembers 86 he hit off the Barbados attack led by upstart paceman Ryan Best at the LBI ground.

“Best had already put away Chris (Gayle) and Marlon (Samuels) and thought he coulda get me too, but I put him out of the attack instead,” Baker fondly relates.

His resume also includes one game for the Jamaica senior team in the Busta Cup.

But although he topped all scorers in the 2001 and 2002 Jamaica trials, Baker said he was never selected again after that solitary game.

He feels he was victimized by the team’s manager because of differences that developed with the official from the player’s Under-19 days.

Baker’s frustration forced him to abandon his budding career in Jamaica for life in New York.
He caught up with his ex-Jamaica mates this summer when the West Indies team led by Brian Lara opposed the United States All Stars in Brooklyn in July.

Baker was zeroed in the first of two games and was the butt of their jokes the rest of the day. But he rebounded with a responsible innings of 40-odd in the second game and before West Indies left, he said Hinds, the current Jamaica captain was wooing him to return to play for his native land, such is the level of respect he commands in his homeland.

Born and bred in Clarendon Parish, Baker said he took up cricket seriously after being given a bat by former West Indies batsman Desmond Haynes on one of several trips to Sabina Park with his uncle as a boy.

Later on Baker said he was even more proficient in soccer. “Many people would be surprised I took up cricket instead,” states the all-rounder.

But his constant exposure to cricket through his uncle, transformed him into a cricket fanatic.

At 14-years, he talked his way into the Clarendon first division Senior Cup team and made a sensational debut, scoring at impressive 60 against national bowlers.

He went on to represent Police club with distinction until his run-in with officialdom.

Sometime later, Baker said he heard former Australia captain Bobby Simpson who conducted coaching stints in Jamaica at the time, was appalled at his omission form the national team.

Now that he is well ensconced in America, the national selectors here have a splendid chance to cash in where Jamaica blundered.
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