Thank you, Tony Cozier

Suresh Saraiya, one of the better commentators in English on All India Radio, once sacrificed his turn so that listeners could enjoy Cozier instead during a Test match between India and the West Indies.

He was one of those great commentators that played such a big role in making you fall in love with this most fascinating of all games.   -  Getty Images

Tony Cozier, who died in Barbados on Wednesday, was not merely the voice of West Indies cricket. Especially to those who discovered him on the radio, and not television. For them, he was a gifted commentator who could paint beautiful pictures of cricket just with his voice. It was only accidental that he was a West Indian.

He was one of those great commentators who played such a big role in making you fall in love with this most fascinating game. The evenings of the cricket season in England and the mornings of cricket in Australia were devoted to radio.

Growing up in a hill town of northern Kerala in the 1980s, you never knew how Michael Holding or Gus Logie looked like until you saw their pictures in The Sportstar magazine or on the sports pages of The Hindu. Yet, with your mind’s eye, you saw Holding completing his beautiful bowling action or the diminutive Logie playing a gritty knock or taking a great catch at short-leg. With men like Cozier describing vividly those moments you did not require the replays on television.

Whenever the West Indies toured England or Australia, Cozier joined the commentary teams of the BBC, or the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Back in the 1980s and 90s, you could listen to uninterrupted, ball-by-ball commentary on all the Test matches and the One Day Internationals, in India too, through the short wave broadcasts of the BBC and Radio Australia; you only required a transistor that had the 13 and 16 meter bands.

Both the BBC and the ABC used to boast legendary voices in their commentary boxes. If John Arlott, Brian Johnston, Don Mosey, Christopher Martin-Jenkins and Henry Blofeld were at Lord’s and Leeds, Alan McGilvray and Jim Maxwell were at Melbourne and Sydney.

Cozier made those great commentary teams greater with his presence. He had a distinctive style, a lovely voice and a deep knowledge to go with an undying passion for the game. He was so passionate that you could see easily how disappointed he was with the decline in West Indies cricket. Remember, he had seen the heydays of West Indies that had players like Garry Sobers, Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd, Gordon Greenidge, Jeff Dujon, Malcolm Marshall, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding and Joel Garner.

For many, the memories of these legendary cricketers would be mostly in sound than images: for, they all played most of their cricket before the advent of non-stop television coverage. I did not see live on television the greatest moment in history for Indian sport. But, I listened, on the white-and-blue Nelco transistor at our home in Wayanad, to Chris Martin-Jenkins describing Mohindar Amarnath trapping Michael Holding lbw on the night of June 25, 1983.

The joy that commentators like Martin-Jenkins, who died three years ago, and Cozier give to cricket fans around the globe cannot be fathomed. Cozier had fans in the commentary box, too. I recall Suresh Saraiya, one of the better commentators in English on All India Radio, once sacrificed his turn so that listeners could enjoy Cozier instead during a Test match between India and the West Indies. The AIR never had the tradition of inviting the commentator from the visiting country. Saraiya, by the way, one felt, was clearly influenced by the style of Cozier.

Cozier may have become even more popular after he began doing television commentary. He was mighty good on television as well. In fact, no commentator could be as at home both on radio and television as him.

Thank you, Tony Cozier, for all those mornings and evenings of cricket on the radio.

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