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TONY BEST: Cozier’s early days


TONY BEST: Cozier’s early days

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AS A STUDENT of The Lodge School in the 1950s, Tony Cozier liked to patrol the sidelines of football games providing commentaries.

And he did it whether it was a House match or a competitive game between the school and any of the local teams.

Interestingly, it didn’t matter that his descriptions weren’t being broadcast by the island’s lone radio station, Barbados Rediffusion. Cozier was providing information and enjoyment to the students and faculty watching the games.

“He was quite good, very good,” recalled Dr Ken Harewood, a retired professor of biochemistry at North Carolina Central University in Durham. “Tono, as we called him, knew the names of the players, described their style of play with pinpoint accuracy and verve. It was very entertaining. We loved it. Looking back on it, you can say he was preparing himself for a brilliant career as an outstanding international cricket commentator. He honed his broadcast skills at Lodge.

“Of course, we didn’t dream that ‘Tono’ would turn out to be the world-class cricket commentator that he subsequently became, a fixture on the BBC cricket broadcast team, “added Harewood, who incidentally, played soccer for Barbados against visiting teams while he was a teenage student at Lodge. “Tony had a passion for sports.”

But there was more to Cozier than his make-believe commentaries.

He became Lodge’s goalkeeper and helped the school to move up the football ladder.

“We were extremely fortunate to have had him as our goalkeeper. As captain of the school’s team, I supported Graham Wilkes, our games master, when he suggested we put Tony in goal,” Harewood recalled. “It turned out to be an excellent move. We didn’t know it at the time, but we had in our school and country the beginning of a broadcaster who would go on to to hold his own on the BBC alongside such broadcast icons as John Arlott and Jim Swanton while giving millions of listeners an excellent Caribbean perspective.”

Colin Mayers, Barbados’ Consul-General in Miami who played on Lodge’s first division team, agreed with Harewood’s description of Cozier’s early devotion to cricket and broadcasting.

“Tono was my first Under-13 cricket captain for Laborde House at Lodge,” Mayers recalled. “It was clear he would become an icon in some area of the sporting world. I admired him as a professional and benefitted from his kindness, patience and his pursuit of excellence.”

And like Harewood, he enjoyed Cozier’s early running commentaries on cricket and soccer.

“He was quite good, very descriptive in his calling of the game,” added Mayers, whose brother, Anthony Mayers opened the bowling for Barbados against Australia at Kensington Oval in 1954-55. “Yes, you can say Tono’s broadcast career began at Lodge. He will live on in the memories of many us who benefited from his skills, so selflessly given.”

Cozier, 75, died almost two weeks ago and was buried on Friday.

The cause of death was cancer. He was considered the “voice” of West Indies cricket for more than half a century.

Unlike Harewood and Mayers, Tony Marshall, Barbados’ top diplomat at the United Nations, attended Harrison College and played cricket for the school in the 1950s. He remembers Cozier in those early days as someone with a deep interest in sports.

“I may have played against him in a match between Harrison College and Lodge and I don’t think he got many runs,” said Marshall, who decades later was elected president of the Barbados Cricket Association and served on the West Indies Cricket Board. “Back then, we had no way of knowing it but right in Barbados was a budding international broadcaster and sports journalist.

“As an international cricket commentator he brought balance to the descriptions of the matches. He was excellent,” Marshall insisted. “From his early days, he showed signs of being an outstanding journalist and commentator. His presence on the BBC was recognition of his ability. He has left a legacy for which all of us are grateful.”

Tony Best is THE NATION’s North American Correspondent. Email: [email protected]