One of cricket’s greats has gone. He never batted, bowled or fielded a ball at the highest level, but he described it to millions of people. And he was unique in that he mastered three distinctly different formats. I’m not talking about Tests, ODIs and T20s – but commentary upon the game as a writer and as a commentator - expertly for both radio and television.
Tony Cozier was quite simply the voice of West Indies cricket for some fifty years – and documented their rise, fall, and we hope the first signs of their re-birth.
There is a general acceptance that CLR James is the finest writer upon Caribbean cricket, and that his seminal book, Beyond the Boundary is the greatest volume upon the game in the region, maybe even the best book of all about the sport. And yet there will be many who are not aware of his name. No one with a love of cricket will not know the name Tony Cozier. I once said as much to Tony - and he told me I was talking nonsense.
The respect and regard in which he was held is universal. His passing will be noted, and his loss profoundly felt worldwide. He was the best.
As a broadcaster, he travelled the world from the sixties to the present decade reporting, recording, analyzing and commenting upon cricket from the West Indies perspective - but always with an international view. His insight, knowledge and sense of history was admired by players, fans and colleagues alike, and his was a voice and opinion you could always trust.
In his career and travels, he documented the new age of the Windies, inheriting from James the period of Caribbean cricket that had seen the transition of the side under the leadership of the father of the modern West Indies, Frank Worrell, to the first period of greatness under the captaincy of Garfield Sobers. West Indies were acclaimed unofficially as World Champions when the beat Australia in the Test series of 1965 – and ten years later under Clive Lloyd they lifted the inaugural World Cup. Lloyd’s side was handed over to Vivian Richards, and between 1976 and 1995 they won a further World Cup and lost only one Test series in twenty years. Between 1980 and 1995 they were undefeated. Tony Cozier was there throughout.
He was honest in his appraisals, whether with pen or microphone, and was part of the fabric of the dominant, mighty West Indies. He was its chronicler. The greatest sporting side in history trusted him and he told their story. He was often at the very heart of their triumphs, even being part of the dressing room celebrations at Lord’s on that heady day of World Cup glory in June ’75.
To the Caribbean and the outside world, he was as much a part of the Windies cricket landscape as any of the great players of that period. His was the voice we heard in India, England, Australia, indeed everywhere that the West Indies played and conquered. He was the authority on their triumphs, and later their trials and tribulations.
Tony Cozier did it all. He would be there commentating for television on the game, and his stint completed, he would scurry to the radio booth to provide the aural descriptions of the same game to a separate audience listening in to the match - and painting the game's picture with as much eloquence and precision as that entirely different medium demands. Nobody has been as proficient in the two greatly differing disciplines as he. And nobody has had the skill and artistry to bounce continually from one to the other and be able to adapt seamlessly - he was a broadcasting genius. And at the end of the day, he would write his match report with equal aplomb as he had spoken, and still had something fresh and insightful to say.
He retained those abilities through a further twenty years in which he applied just as much honesty and fine critical judgement to West Indies' subsequent years of sad decline. It must have hurt deeply to observe the descent down the rankings, and the turmoil of defeats and unsavoury wranglings between a generation or two of teams and cricket boards. And yet he did it unstintingly and with journalistic integrity and finesse. He was a consummate professional.
Tony Cozier loved the West Indies. He loved his country, Barbados and his loved his club, the Wanderers. He was a man of the people, of the world, and of his home. And they loved and admired him in return.
Words cannot do justice to a man who is among the greatest correspondents of the great game that we have ever known. And he would have been able to write and speak of such a man truthfully and dispassionately in all cricket coverage’s mediums.
We will miss his intelligent presence in the commentary box, and his words of wisdom in the cricket columns of the many publications for which he provided the news and analysis of West Indian and world cricket. But his family, friends and colleagues will feel the loss most profoundly - and they will all speak of his greatness, kindness and affability. He was not just one of cricket’s best broadcasters, but he was also a terrific bloke.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to his nearest and dearest - while I would also like to share a personal thought for his great friend and long-time partner in commentary, Joseph ‘Reds’ Perreira. He accompanied Tony on countless trips around the world and throughout the Caribbean, and sat alongside him in the radio booths and boxes of many countries. Reds saw him in Barbados in February this year, and they sat together in a sports bar in Bridgetown and reminisced on the great days - and saw another as they spoke: watching the unbelievable record-breaking farewell Test innings of Brendon McCullum for New Zealand against Australia. They were privileged to witness and report on countless performances by the magnificent West Indies in partnership in the commentary box, and they were together for one final viewing of fabulous cricket in each other’s company.
The passing of Tony Cozier truly marks the end of a glorious chapter of West Indies cricket – the golden years of his matchless broadcasting. It is perhaps fitting that the Windies have again recently claimed three world crowns - I am glad he lived to see a return to glory.
It is a phrase often said, but never more true than on this occasion: we shall never see his like again.