The death of Tony Cozier has been considered a loss cricket will mourn for a long time. Countless tributes have surfaced in the two days since his death due to illness in Barbados.
Former West Indies captain Brian Lara, a legend of the game, also paid tribute, explaining how Cozier gave invaluable advice during a tough time in his career.
In 1998-99, West Indies were dismantled on a tour to South Africa; a tour which may not have gone ahead in the first place after Lara, captain at the time, and some of his players travelled to the United Kingdom instead of South Africa to protest against the allowances they were being paid and their unease with security arrangements.
The WICB, in response, fired Lara and vice-captain Carl Hooper, and it needed an intervention from the South African board’s managing director, Ali Bacher, and a series of meetings between the players, the WICB and the West Indies Players’ Association in London to finally reach an accord. Lara was put in charge of the team again and South Africa whitewashed them. Only two of the five Tests went into the final day.
If West Indies thought returning home would bring them better luck, a world-beating Australian side bowled them out for 167 and 51 at Lara’s home ground at Port-of-Spain in Trinidad. It was amid such tumult that Lara turned to Cozier.
“We shared a very important moment in my career, which for me was a turning point. It happened after returning from South Africa in 1999 after a 5-0 drubbing and a first-Test loss to Australia. I sought out the advice of Tony as I believed him to be the one person who had the first-hand experience to comment on where we were going wrong and what we could have done to arrest the painstaking slide,” Lara said.
“That conversation played a pivotal role in our winning the next two Test matches and drawing the series against the then best team in the world, Australia.”
Lara went on to score 213 in the second Test of the series, setting up the side’s ten-wicket win and followed it up with an unbeaten 153 that helped West Indies chase down 308 in a thrilling one-wicket win. Lara believed very few people may be able to replicate the steadfast dedication that Cozier had to serve the game and its fans.
“Tony was a living history book, who had the unique ability to bring to contemporary cricket commentary a deep sense of strategy and analysis, as well as decades of watching history upfront,” Lara said.
“He had lived it, he had worked it and he had absorbed it. That added a layer to his broadcasting, journalism and commentary that will be hard for anyone to match.
“His commentary was so descriptive, vivid, energetic and engaging, I could have visualised each ball, each over! I remember meeting Tony for the first time and it was as memorable as my first encounter with the great players at that time, such was his passion and love for the game.”
Lara went on to add: “For 58 years, Tony devoted his life to West Indies cricket never once losing his passion, even amid the turmoil West Indies cricket sometimes faced.
“I offer my deepest condolences to all his loved ones. He will never be forgotten.”