Tony Cozier, the voice and conscience of West Indies cricket, dies
Commentator brought a flavour of the Caribbean to the game as he chronicled the rise and fall of a cricketing dynasty
The cricket world has been mourning the death of commentator Tony Cozier, who has died at the age of 75.
The Barbados-born journalist had one of the most recognisable voices in the game and covered the West Indies for more than 50 years, seeing the team rise to the summit of the game before falling back alarmingly.
Cozier began his career in 1958, when he was in his teens, and first appeared on the BBC's Test Match Special in 1966. He made his final appearance on the show last year.
"He had a voice which instantly transported you from wherever you were in the world to the sun-drenched beaches of Barbados," TMS producer Adam Mountford told the BBC, while Jonathan Agnew described him as "one of the finest writers and broadcasters in the game".
The Barbadian commentator also brought a different perspective to the game, writes Vaneisa Baksh on Cricinfo. "When he took the microphone and the broadcast chair, he brought a West Indian voice to cricket," she says. "He could weave history, stats jokes and island titbits into ball-by-ball commentary seamlessly, so that for the first time, a Caribbean perspective made it to the airwaves."
Cozier and his "Bajan lilt" so embodied the West Indies that it came as a surprise to many to discover he was white, says Scyld Berry of the Daily Telegraph, adding that he was "descended from the Scottish labourers who emigrated to the island in the seventeenth century".
The commentator did more than simply observe the West Indian game, says Agnew: "Throughout his career, Cozier had to tread the tense tightrope of Caribbean politics, where even the slightest negative observation of a player's performance can provoke a furious nationalistic backlash.
"He withstood this stoically and determinedly, remaining a strong critic of the West Indies Cricket Board's lack of organisation and outlook."
Cozier became the "conscience" of West Indian cricket, agrees Berry of the Telegraph. "Right up to his death, he gave the West Indian board hell for squandering the money and legacy that it had inherited."
And he held them to account to the very last, writes Mike Selvey in The Guardian. "The decline of the game around the islands left him not just saddened but angry."
But his determination to defend the game did not interfere with his enjoyment of life. "His stories of West Indies cricket were legendary: as a summariser to his radio commentary... Best of all was when the rum or Banks beer flowed at his beautiful ramshackle beach house on the east coast of Barbados."
His "beach parties were legendary, unmissable events on any island visit", says Selvey.