The Cricket Writers Club has paid tribute to Tony Cozier, the broadcaster and sports writer, who died yesterday, with Jonathan Agnew, the BBC’s cricket correspondent, saying that, “at the microphone, and with his gentle Bajan lilt, his voice was the perfect soundtrack to any cricket match”.
Agnew also criticised the cricket authorities in the West Indies for their treatment of Cozier over the last couple of years of his life. “I hope they feel very bad about that today because it has been outrageous the way he was treated,” Agnew said.
Mark Baldwin, the CWC chair, said, “In recent times, the Cricket Writers’ Club has lost too many giants of our trade. Tony Cozier is the latest heavy loss, and on behalf of the Club can I pass on heartfelt condolences to Tony’s family and friends in the Caribbean. He was a great friend and true colleague to many of us in this Club, and will be hugely missed.”
Cozier, who was 75, had been unwell for some time, but had continued to provide commentaries for BBC Test Match Special right through to last year, after a 58-year career in television, radio, newspaper and book-writing. Cozier was born in Bridgetown in 1940; he made his TMS in 1966.
Agnew, who had worked closely with Cozier for a quarter of a century, said that it was “desperately sad and awful news”.
“Tony was a great family friend, as well as a commentating colleague for many years. I first met him when Worcestershire played the touring West Indies team in 1991 at New Road and what I most remember about that occasion was how he spelled out to me the importance of getting the basics right in radio commentary. How you described the action, how often you gave the score – that sort of thing. He was in that sense a traditionalist in terms of the commentator’s art, even though he was such a laid-back person who loved a laugh and a party.
“We should remember just what an outstanding commentator he was, and someone who also insisted on accuracy and fairness in his broadcasts.
“One of the highlights of any West Indies tour was the rest day of a Barbados Test, when Tony and his wife Jillian would entertain the media and other friends so generously at their holiday home on the East Coast of the island, near Bathsheba. People would set out from Bridgetown, across the sugar cane plantations, and some would get lost on the way. But, at the party, there would be calypso music, lots of rum punch and then cricket on the beach.
“To me, there has for a long time been four of us around the world who, essentially, did the same job in our respective countries: Jim Maxwell in Australia, Bryan Waddle in New Zealand, myself in England, and Tony Cozier in the West Indies. But, of the four of us, Tony had by far the most difficult job simply because of Caribbean politics and the insularity of the respective territories. As a Barbados man, if he mildly criticised a player from Jamaica or Trinidad or wherever, he would get reaction and criticism from those countries. But he still won huge respect from people around the Caribbean, because of his professionalism and because he was so clearly fair-minded and passionate about West Indies cricket.
“That is why the way he has been treated by the West Indies cricket administrators over the past couple of years is so desperately sad; they basically took him off the air and silenced him. I hope they feel very bad about that today because it has been outrageous the way he was treated. Tony cared so much about the West Indies and West Indies cricket. That was his life. The last couple of years have been very sad for him and that’s a shame.
“What we need to remember above all else, however, is Tony’s zest for life and his tremendous ability as a commentator and writer on West Indies cricket and the game in general. At the microphone, and with his gentle Bajan lilt, his voice was the perfect soundtrack to any cricket match.”
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