My first recollection of hearing Tony Cozier was in the 1990s, while watching the West Indies play cricket on television. I remember this mellow and yet authoritative voice, full of measured cadences and sprinkled with a distinct Caribbean twang. I’m sure I was among the many who were surprised to later find out that this voice and accent in fact belonged to a white man.
Cozier’s commentary did not have Tony Greig's or Ravi Shastri's electric vibe, nor did it include Richie Benaud's unflappable quips and purposeful pauses. But his voice perfectly blended in with what I always imagined life in the Caribbean to be. Even in the dead of the night, which was when cricket matches in the West Indies began in my time zone, Cozier's commentary transported me to a sunny beach with white sands, where I’m lying on a sun bed, sipping a chilled drink, and listening to him on the radio.
That was about all I knew about Cozier until he died on Wednesday at the age of 75 following an illness. While researching this piece, I learned that his career had spanned nearly 60 years, during which he worked in all three formats of media: television, radio and written journalism.
His father Jimmy Cozier, who was also a journalist, had gifted him a copy of Wisden for his eighth birthday. So began a love affair with the sport that lasted nearly 70 years.
Cozier is among the very few brilliant cricket commentators who have not played the game at a professional level themselves. After studying journalism, the Barbadian began his commentary career during Australia's tour of the West Indies in 1965 and soon became a household name who worked for broadcasters across the world.
“Tony was the master of going between TV and radio ball-by-ball commentary. He was the master of both,” said Cozier’s former colleague and BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew. “He’s easily the best I’ve come across in 25 years at being able to do both disciplines,” Agnew added.
Cozier’s background as a journalist also “provided him with an authoritative voice not only on cricket but on the game’s personalities and politics, and on West Indian politics and current affairs,” wrote Mike Coward in The Cricket Monthly.
It isn’t for no reason that Cozier was known as the voice of West Indies cricket. He was synonymous with it. And while he loved the game, he pulled no punches when it came to criticising the mess that West Indies cricket has found itself in since the late nineties.
In fact, Cozier was one of the most outspoken critics of the West Indies Cricket Board during their ongoing rift with the players, and his columns spared no one whom he considered responsible, no matter what their position was.“Right up to his death he gave the West Indian board hell for squandering the money and legacy that it had inherited,” wrote Scyld Berry in The Telegraph.
Cozier was also involved in legal battles with the WICB, which is probably why he wasn’t heard very often in recent times. Still, in its tribute the WICB did salute him for his “outstanding work” – even if insincerely – and said he “represented West Indies wherever he went”.
A highly respected figure in the cricket world, Cozier was mourned by his fraternity on Twitter with words that would have surely embarrassed him:
First Tony Greig, then Richie Benaud, and now Tony Cozier. You almost want to believe in an afterlife so that you can imagine the three of them in the commentary box till eternity.
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