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West Indies Cricket Has Lost Its Voice

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Tony_Cozier_West_Indies_cricket_commentatorFor a long time, West Indies cricket was Tony Cozier. For many of us growing up in the Caribbean the two were inseparable, indistinguishable. His was the clear, unmistakable voice of West Indies cricket, especially in the days before TV coverage became widespread; the days when West Indies fans took their transistor radios to bed, enraptured by cricket commentary from distant lands like Australia and India.

Once Tony said it, it was so. Picturing to the vivid images he painted with words one almost felt present at the venue. And whenever commentary duties passed to others in the box we waited eagerly for his time at the mic to come round again.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that many of us in the Caribbean who grew up following the game closely, probably listened to Cozier’s melodic voice more than any other; more than any teacher at school; more perhaps, than any parent.

His mastery extended to the written word as well. We revered his radio and his TV commentary, but his writings on cricket were equally informative, entertaining, and highly regarded. I remember often rushing to acquire a copy of the local daily newspaper, mainly because Cozier’s report on the previous day’s happenings would feature in the sports pages.

“Yesterday Graham Gooch batted like a prince,” went a line from his day two report of the 1980 Lords test. “Today it was the king’s turn.” That line, for some reason, has resided in my mind all these years. The king, of course, was West Indies batting great Viv Richards. His 145, made from 159 deliveries, was a masterpiece that totally overshadowed the English opener’s very special innings the day before.

 

Almost as much as any player, Cozier was a star of the game to those of us who grew up on his commentary. The people of the Caribbean celebrated Viv, Greenidge, Holding, Lara, Walsh, and all their great players. But they celebrated Cozier too. He excelled as much in his field as they did in theirs.

Their deeds were made flesh and brought to life by his gripping descriptions. For years, despite the stellar contributions of journalist like Reds Parriera and Tony Becca, he remained the main codifier of West Indies cricket. To him fell the main responsibility of explaining Caribbean cricket and Caribbean culture to the world.

Cozier published and edited the Benson and Hedges West Indies Cricket Annual from 1970 until 1991 when the sponsors moved on. The baton then passed to The Red Stripe Cricket Quarterly that lasted a decade until those sponsors pulled out. There might have been other publications that focused on West Indies cricket during that period. None matched the authenticity of Cozier’s magazines.

Other journalists must have envied Cozier’s breadth of experiences. Recall that he began in the early sixties. Imagine that he saw and reported on the greatest of them all, Sir Garfield Sobers, in full bloom. Imagine that he was there to see Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith in their prime. After their demise, he saw the West Indies struggle to find fast bowling options. And then he had a close-up view of the exciting emergence of an unbelievable line of pacemen, and witnessed the destructive capacity of the formidable four-pronged attacks.

 

Cozier observed and reported on the artistry of Rohan Kanhai, Lance Gibbs, and Lawrence Rowe. He regularly viewed the majesty and ruthlessness of Viv’s strokeplay. He saw Brian Lara’s exquisite timing and expansive range. He saw the team he loved rule cricket for almost two decades.

Sadly, he also saw the prolonged demise of West Indies cricket. He watched the gloom descend and envelope the sport. He grew weary at the back and forth, and at the conflict and mistrust that characterized the relationship between players and the authorities. And he was not overly optimistic about the future of West Indies cricket, though victory by the under 19 team in the 50-over World Cup stirred some optimism.

His own relationship with the board deteriorated. In the last few years, he became a harsh critic of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the way the game is governed in the Caribbean.

Admirers of his work were galled by the fact that he was no longer being heard on commentary and Cozier responded by filing a lawsuit when WICB president Dave Cameron offered this as explanation: “There is no ban on Mr. Cozier. The challenge is Mr. Cozier has gotten to an age – and everyone needs to agree, that he is not actually seeing very well anymore. And we are being very, very frank about that.” The suit was still pending at the time of his passing.

Despite the problems in West Indies cricket that plagued his later years, Cozier is likely to have had a mostly fulfilling life. He had the good fortune of travelling the globe watching and reporting on the game he loved dearly. He touched many lives; he made the world better.

Rest Well Tony.



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I am from Jamaica, currently live in USA. Have followed cricket for a long time. Took to writing ab...

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