TONY COZIER: CRICKET
COMMENTATOR AND CARIBBEAN COLOSSUS
(10 JULY 1940 – 11 MAY 2016)
The death of Tony Cozier at 75 cruelly deprives the cricket world of one of its most distinguished, recognisable and trusted voices. Alarmingly, it also means the beleaguered West Indian cricket community has lost its champion and one of few critics with the courage to question the myopia, arrogance and dysfunction of the game’s governors throughout the Caribbean.
Tony was a peerless radio and television broadcaster and fine writer who for more than 50 years educated and informed generations of cricket followers throughout the world about West Indian cricket and cricketers.
While his mellifluous, lilting voice was known to millions he was first and foremost a proud and passionate journalist and newspaperman, for journalism was in his blood as his father Edward Lloyd ‘Jimmy’ Cozier was a renowned newspaperman who edited the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian, the Voice of St Lucia The Barbados Advocate and started the Daily News in Barbados.
So it was perhaps destined that after his days at Lodge School in Barbados, Tony studied journalism at Carleton University at Ottawa in Canada and at the age of 20 was appointed by his father to the sports editorship of the Daily News.
Of course, having a father as an editor had long had advantages. Indeed, with considerable guile Tony had inveigled Jimmy into letting him cover, in a fashion, the first tour of the West Indies by an Australian team in 1955. He was approaching his 15th birthday at the time.
It is well known that he broadcast throughout the Caribbean and for the BBC and Sky Sports in England, for the ABC and Channel 9 in Australia, edited the West Indies cricket annual for 22 years and was cricket correspondent for The Barbados Advocate and then the Nation in his beloved homeland. Furthermore, he wrote extensively for The Independent in Britain and contributed to the cricketing website, Cricinfo.
What may not be as well known was the vibrancy of his personality; his pure love of life, of family and friends, of music, of singing and of ice cream. Unquestionably, he could have eaten ice cream for Barbados. As his health failed over the past four years and doctors demanded he show more restraint he found it more diﬃcult to give up ice cream than his favourite tipple.
For more than 40 years I had the good fortune to share press and broadcasting boxes with Tony and can attest to the warmth of his personality, the strength of his friendship and his exceptional generosity. And the hour-long interviews he so willingly provided for ABC’s rich History of Cricket and for the archive at the Bradman Museum and International Cricket Hall of Fame at Bowral provided a priceless insight into the people and politics of the game in the West Indies.
He was openly loved by colleagues and players everywhere including his dear friend, the redoubtable Barbadian Wes Hall, paceman, politician and preacher who conducted his funeral service at the Coral Ridge Memorial Gardens in Barbados on May 20. Unsurprisingly, Tony’s widow, Jillian, and children Craig and Natalie, made a special request that no mourning colours be worn at his farewell. His remarkable life was to be celebrated.
The recipient of the Silver Crown of Merit from the government of Barbados, Tono, as he was known to many, would not want us to be morbid. He would want us to reflect on the good times with a Banks beer or a Mount Gay rum at our side and be ready to accompany Roy Orbison or Carole King in a rowdy rendition of a favourite song of years past but never to be forgotten.
Or retell the tales of the antics at beach barbecues at the Cozier beach hut at Conset Bay on the rugged east coast of Barbados. Whether at home at Worthing, Christ Church in Bridgetown or at the beach hut his doors were always wide open. He was a kind-hearted man and a most gracious host. It was a privilege to know him and to work alongside him.
Awarded life membership of the Marylebone Cricket Club in 2011 Winston Anthony Lloyd Cozier, known to the world as Tony, was truly a doyen and his legacy is immense. The cricket world will forever be in his debt and always able to bring to mind his incomparable voice.
TONY COZIER – JIM MAXWELL INTERVIEWED BY THE EDITOR
When the passing of Tony Cozier became known in May this year I immediately thought about the ABC’s cricket commentator Jim Maxwell. He had known Cozier for many years and would be able to reflect on the life of the West Indian commentator and journalist.
When I caught up with Maxwell he said that “Tony Cozier’s death has left millions of people throughout the Caribbean and beyond sad and aching because of their attachment to Tony and because of their admiration and respect for his skills as a journalist. He was the most respected cricket writer, broadcaster and cricket historian to have come from the Caribbean. He was a brilliant commentator and was superbly descriptive and highly disciplined.”
Fine words from Maxwell, who recalls hearing him on the radio when Australia under Bob Simpson toured the West Indies in 1965. Maxwell noted that “Tony was able to share the game to the radio audience by allowing the sounds of the game and his voice convey what was happening. Tony was truly a Caribbean man. He was the voice of West Indies cricket. I believe that he is one of the most significant West Indians of our time.”
“Tony had a very distinctive voice,” says Maxwell. “It was Barbadian in every way. He had that clipped way of speaking and was somewhat precise in the way he spoke. Tony was a very open person and he would always allow you to express your views before responding. He was unbelievably knowledgeable n West Indian sport as well as politics around the Caribbean. He was firm on the way the West Indies Cricket Board should be reformed and restructured. He believed that those West Indian greats needed to step forward to facilitate the change.”
Maxwell met Cozier for the first time during the 1975-76 season. “I was very shy at the time wishing to learn about broadcasting and what was involved for me as an ABC trainee. Tony was very good. He encouraged me and sought to engage me in conversation. We became firm friends over the years.”
I asked Maxwell if Cozier had left a legacy. He thought for a moment. “Certainly. He was the moral conscience of West Indian cricket. He was respected by the players and was keen to support them and the game in every way. With his passing that conscience is no longer there. He was concerned about the welfare of the players and was always seeking to understand the issues that continually surfaced in the West Indian game. Self-interest was not part of the Cozier DNA. I fear that with Cozier’s passing, cricket and communication in the West Indies will be diﬃcult in the future. He was really a colossus.”