So, why didn’t the Government of Barbados confer our country’s highest National Honour on Tony Cozier during his lifetime? Why wasn’t he “Sir Tony Cozier”?
Similarly, why didn’t our regional university –– the University of the West Indies –– confer an honorary doctorate on Tony Cozier, as it has done on so many other less deserving Caribbean personalities? Why wasn’t he known as Dr Tony Cozier?
The failure of Barbadian and Caribbean “officialdom” to properly appreciate and honour the late Tony Cozier is a cause for shame, and speaks volumes about the lack of understanding and the skewed value system of our national and regional leadership institutions!
There can be no doubt that Tony Cozier was a great “West Indian” and was deserving of the highest honours our regional leadership has the power to confer.
But, don’t take it from me alone. Listen instead to the measured and weighty opinion of the eminent ground-breaking Caribbean “New World” economist and scholar –– the late Lloyd Best.
Back in the year 1999, Lloyd Best, in collaboration with George Lamming, marked the turn of the millennium with the publication of a major compendium of West Indian or Caribbean writings entitled Enterprise Of The Indies.
And in an article titled My All-Time West Indian Cricket Squad, Lloyd Best declaimed:
My starting line-up would read: Hunte, Greenidge, Headley, Richards, Sobers, Worrell, Walcott, Marshall, Holding, Roberts, Gibbs. The opening attack would normally be Sobers (two to three overs) and Holding.
Finally, I would add Tony Cozier to make a squad of 18 in all. I fail to see how West Indies could ever travel without him. His writing may well be our most crucial resource.
Now, Lloyd Best put his focus on the cricket writings of Tony Cozier, but, as we all know, Cozier’s contribution went way beyond his exploits in the field of print journalism.
For close to 50 years, Tony Cozier was “our man” –– our representative West Indian man –– in England, Australia, India, New Zealand, and in all the other regions of the world in which our West Indies cricket team sojourned to be tested and assessed, not only for their cricketing skills, but also for the value and worth of the people and “nation” that they represented.
And we had the comfort and assurance of knowing that even if our beloved cricket team faltered on the field of battle, that our cause (and our worth as a people and “nation”) would still be held aloft in the commentary booth by our great ambassador and champion Tony Cozier!
Not only did we know that we could depend on Tony to self-evidently be the fairest and most knowledgeable, articulate and gracious commentator in the commentary box, but we also knew that we could depend on him to convey to the worldwide listening audience a mature and respectful sense of our trials, accomplishments, character, predicament, and dreams as a people and nation.
And let us be very clear about this. Tony Cozier was not merely the best West Indian or Caribbean cricket commentator: he was the best cricket commentator period! Like Sobers, Worrell and Headley before him, Tony Cozier proved that the very best in the entire world could emerge from a small Caribbean territory!
It also needs to be said that Tony Cozier was the outstanding example of the white Barbadian/West Indian who was able to come to terms with and transcend the racial contradictions and insecurities of the colonial era, and to fully embrace his identity as a citizen of the new predominantly black independent nation.
This –– as we all know –– was not an easy task for many white Barbadians in the immediate post-Independence years of the late 1960s. In fact, many of them opted to abandon Barbados and the Caribbean all together, and to run off to white Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Tony Cozier was the living example par excellence of the alternative option –– a sensitive understanding of the shared history, heritage and culture that makes it possible for black and white Barbadians/West Indians to embrace a new common destiny, and a rejection of the white supremacy value system and its inability to countenance black leadership and achievement.
The truth is that there was no Barbadian –– white or black –– who was more “Bajan” than Tony Cozier! Just as there was no Bajan who was more West Indian than Tony Cozier! Furthermore, our Tony Cozier was a living embodiment of the holistic interconnectedness between a Barbadian identity and a wider, and potentially even more powerful, West Indian or Caribbean identity.
It is perhaps fitting that one of the last and most powerful images that Tony Cozier would have carried to the after-life is the image of the victorious West Indies T20 women’s and men’s cricket teams “standing on top of the world” and joyously celebrating their championship victories –– in true ebullient West Indian style –– for the whole admiring world to see.
I have no doubt that Tony Cozier, the consummate West Indian/Caribbean man, would want us to commemorate and celebrate his life by rededicating ourselves –– with seriousness and integrity –– to the twin causes of building the Caribbean nation and recapturing the glory days of his and our beloved West Indian cricket team.
May the great man rest in peace. And may his name always be remembered by lovers of the noble game of cricket.
(David Comissiong, attorney-at-law, is president of the Clement Payne Movement.)