“You never miss the water till the well runs dry,” is a popular idiom that simply means that oftentimes people are not grateful nor appreciative of something until it is no more.
Tony Cozier’s death last Wednesday means that those who felt that his columns in this newspaper (especially the Sunday Stabroek) would continue ad infinitum, will have to come to the sobering realization that, the “Well” the encyclopedic knowledge of West Indies cricket’s foremost authority that was Tony Cozier, has dried up.
His writings will be sorely missed!
Cozier was a virtual fountain of cricket information having covered West Indies cricket for over half a century beginning in the 1960s until his death last week.
From his pen, streams of invaluable information sprang forth stimulating the senses of some and fulfilling the voracious appetites of others.
As a journalist covering West Indies cricket, Cozier’s coverage of test matches was unique.
Not for him the inverted pyramid that correspondents from the major news agencies such as Reuters and the Associated Press used.
No! Cozier, adopted what could in essence be termed the delayed lead, a sort of description of the day’s events that had readers on tenterhooks from the opening paragraph to the last, gripped with anxiety to find out what was coming next.
Somewhere in between would be the scores of the major players of the day but readers never objected. Rather they looked forward to his match reports.
Tony Cozier did not write a story, his stories were works of art, masterpieces, painted with every stroke he pounded out on the keyboard of his computers.
His columns, like his match day reports, were eagerly looked forward to and I remember on numerous occasions persons wanting to find out what was Cozier’s column for the next day even before it was published.
As a journalist, he was Caribbean cricket’s Michelangelo.
He was considered the foremost authority on cricket writing in the West Indies. There have been other cricket journalists whose writings have made them famous such as Jamaican’s Tony Becca, Trinidad’s Fazeer Mohammed, Valentino Singh and Garth Wattley, Barbadian Haydn Gill and others but Cozier remained Numero Uno until his death last Wednesday after a well-played innings of 75.
It was the same with cricket commentary. Blessed with a velvety voice, Cozier delivered cricket commentary that placed him in the pantheon of great cricket commentators such as Christopher Martin-Jenkins, Richie Benaud, John Arlott, Brian Johnston, Henry Blofeld, Alan Mc Gilvaray, Joseph `Reds’ Perreira, Fred Trueman, Jim Maxwell, Geoffrey Boycott, Jonathan Agnew and others.
Possessing a voice which was like music to the ears, his description of the game was poetic and he could and sometimes did wax lyrically.
If Cozier’s writing could be compared to Michelangelo’s, his commentary could be compared to Mozart and described in one word, “Classical.”
Cricket fans who followed the game only on radio in the olden days before the advent of television could tell you when Cozier was “on the air.”
Like that literary great, CLR James, whose book Beyond a Boundary, was to have such tremendous impact not only in the Caribbean but further afield, Cozier’s writings influenced many.
For decades he chronicled every issue that affected West Indies cricket, in some instances shining his light on issues that many were afraid to touch. He criticized the administration of the game when needed, praised the players and the various teams when they deserved praise and was not afraid to criticize the prima donna players when their actions appeared not to be in the best interest of West Indies cricket.
One would hope that his professionalism would serve as a catalyst for young reporters/commentators in the West Indies to continue his work so that even though he is no more, his legacy, his work, what he strove to achieve for the betterment of West Indies cricket would continue.
It is indeed sad how he was treated by the powers that be in the latter stages of his life. One who contributed so much to West Indies cricket should never, never, be treated that way.
Abi in pace, dear Tony. Yours, has been an innings that just might save West Indies cricket, who knows.