By David P. Rowe
The news this week that Tony Cozier had died was shattering and tragic for many cricket fans internationally and fans of West Indian cricket especially. For those of us who were children and cricket fans during the 1970s and 1980s, he was an authority on both cricket and life.
Many West Indians consider cricket to be the one area of life in which the West Indies could compete internationally with other regions of the world.
Cozier was, during my lifetime, the properly informed, genuinely West Indian interpreter of international cricket events. I remember personally as a Jamaican school boy in the 1970ss at Wolmer’s Boys’ School, frequently the first argument of the morning at school was whether you agreed with something Tony Cozier said on the radio the night before about the test match and that argument among young West Indian scholars was likely to last all day.
In many respects Cozier’s tone, use of language and analysis added to the game and was a source of inspiration to youngsters. He was a verbal artist. One remembers him speaking of Geofrey Boycott’s “dour approach” or Lawrence Rowe’s “sweet sweet shot”. These phrases explained to absent followers of cricket exactly what was going on in the test match. Cozier’s grammar and word selection always seemed perfect and his recollection so clear.
Who was this man Tony Cozier? He was a Caribbean writer, historian, commentator and journalist and the greatest West Indian cricket writer of all time. His exposition as an analyst and historian was so internationally obvious and academically accepted that he was rarely challenged on factual issues. He was a personal computer of cricket. He was a white Bajan but a true West Indian in his perspective.
Cozier followed cricket generally and Caribbean cricket specifically for the last five decades. West Indians followed him because he was the authority on the sport; international cricketers followed him because of his encyclopedic knowledge of the sport. He was born in Barbados and died there yesterday, his death brings international mourning to cricket fans globally.
He was a master of both radio and television commentary as well as being a comprehensive and brilliant journalist on cricket issues. His reputation as a cricket scholar was bigger than local or international politics and he could therefore criticize the mistakes made in West Indies cricket by the West Indies Cricket Board or CARICOM.
I met Tony Cozier at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in the 1980s during an England tour of the West Indies.
I immediately got his autograph on a Wisden I had with me, as I considered Tony to be the most significant cricketer present. He was not a player but as a presenter of cricket he increased the value of the game. I suspect that particular signed Wisden with Cozier’s signature on it will be of great value at some time in the future.
Cozier’s work was dedicated to Cricket and the Caribbean. Not only was Tony a brilliant journalist, he seemed to be an ambassador of Caribbean culture to international media.
As a ball by ball commentator, he ranks with the greatest of all time. He had a spectacular individual style of soft accurate explanation of the game. “A real color commentator” with a cricket data base for a mind.
Perhaps Cozier had seen more test cricket matches than any other cricket commentator. He seemed to know more about test cricket than anybody else alive.
For those who love West Indian cricket and for those who believe in the finer points of the game there will never be another Tony Cozier. He knew more about test cricket than anybody else alive.
A great interpreter of West Indian cricket history has passed.
David P Rowe is an adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Miami School of Law.