Tuesday, January 16, 2018

For Tony Cozier

This is an extract from the citation I wrote for Tony Cozier who, along with Sir Wes Hall, was presented with the Sir Frank Worrell Noble Spirit Award recently. It is ironic that even as tributes for his service to cricket continue, his voice is missing from the commentary for the current Test series between West Indies and New Zealand.

“The idea of a West Indian community may have been formed decades before, but it was through the kind of cricket nurtured by Sir Frank Worrell that this community began to see itself as a living, tangible entity. For it was through his ideals that the bonds between the territories took the shape that epitomised what it meant to be West Indian.

Sir Frank did not just captain a regional team, he united the players so that they pledged allegiance to him. And he demonstrated the spirit of cricket to the rest of the world, causing all heads to turn in the direction of this West Indies team.

Essentially, that was Sir Frank, and as we celebrate his legacy, it is fair and fitting that we salute those who have walked that road as well.

No voice has represented West Indies cricket as admirably and faithfully as Winston Anthony Lloyd Cozier has done for decades.

But the world would come to know that unmistakeable Tony Cozier voice only after he had made his mark in print. It was in the pages of the Barbados paper, the Daily News, that he made his debut after persuading his father, Jimmy, to let him have a go. His father, who’d given him a given a copy of Wisden as a present for his eighth birthday, owned the paper, and was also a cricket fan. The seed had been sown. So from 1963, the final year for Frank Worrell as West Indies captain, he began to “cover’’ cricket.

His first Test commentary was in 1965 and he broke into television with Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket on Channel Nine in Australia.

He would be there for the next half a century, through thick and thin, telling us like it is; from Peshawar to Dunedin, Chittagong to Canberra, and we learned to trust that voice; we celebrated at its behest; we roared with his passion; we learned that no matter how dismal the news; how harsh the analysis, the voice was bringing our West Indian truths home to us.

For you see, until Cozier, radio commentary was something that came from far away through voices like John Arlott, Johnny Moyes, EW Swanton and Rex Alston, fine voices, but distinctly foreign ones that could not tell us our stories. When Cozier took the microphone and the broadcast chair, he brought something home to the Caribbean and sent strong Caribbean signals to the outside world. He could weave history, stats, jokes, and island tidbits into ball-by-ball commentary seamlessly; and as time passed his memories have been priceless.

He has brought a West Indian voice to cricket; he has made the world respect that West Indian voice, and he has brought a sense of pride to Caribbean people. In Barbados, the press box at Kensington Oval carries his name, and he has been widely celebrated throughout the world, even with honorary life membership at the Marylebone Cricket Club for his contribution to the cricket.

For generations, Cozier has been the griot; the voice we trust coming out of the radio, and the television. Like Sir Frank, he has generously offered his knowledge to those for whom he has paved a way, and we consider the breadth of his contributions to be entirely at one with the noble spirit we wish to celebrate.”