Thu | Mar 22, 2018

Foster's Fairplay | A tribute to Cozier

Published:Tuesday | May 17, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Foster's Fairplay looks to the English poet, Sir William Shakespeare, in writing this final tribute to someone highly respected by this columnist.

In eulogising Julius Caesar, it was Marc Anthony who said: "His life was gentle and the elements so mixed in him, that nature might stand up and say to all the world, this was a man!"

It hurts deeply in saying goodbye to one of the irreplaceable icons who graced the sporting stage during the last 50 years.

Tony Cozier, a cricket commentator and historian, par excellence, brought a high degree of flair and fairness to the arena of cricket. He will be long remembered whenever the game's populace gather to discuss the sport to which he dedicated his life in health and hovering illness.

This columnist, recognised then as a scorer, was privileged to share commentary space with this illustrious West Indian from the birth of his career in 1965 and one could aptly say, until the demise of West Indies cricket in 1995.

Blessed with a passion for cricket and the English Language in proper form, there was the incisive and intuitive analysis for which he became famous. All that was revealed in his precisely crafted descriptive powers, play after play.

Doing his stint in a West Indies Test against England, his undisputed idol, countryman, Garfield Sobers, facing the ferocious John Snow, reeled off a field piercing extra cover drive on tip toe and as the fieldsman turned in hopeless pursuit came the Cozier advice: "Give it up Geoff Boycott."

His insightful thoughts on the intricacies of the game, often lost on mere mortals, came to the fore whenever he put pen to paper. He was well studied and demonstrated his viewpoints in the most minute detail.

This journalist remembers being seated alongside him during a Test match in Johannesburg in 1998. He was under attack from the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) for what was thought, in its wisdom, to be an article undermining their captain, Brian Lara.

As he read his published response to a small audience, he noted the presence of every punctuation mark, so as to register the true meaning of his thoughts and how he wanted them to be conveyed. At the end, there was a strong temptation to accord him the nickname "comma".

Perhaps the greatest tribute one could pay to the sadly departed, world class individual of dignified demeanour and distinguished decorum, is this. He was a white Barbadian but not once can it be recalled that his image was ever tainted with any suggestion of racial prejudice.

This columnist calls on the hierarchy of local cricket to think of the tremendous impact of the Tony Cozier journalistic journey in the sport where he played such a glorious innings.

In comments since his passing, Jamaican proponents of his discipline, this one included, have come out in commendation of what they have learnt following his passage through an illustrious career.

As such, separate and apart from any final tribute to be paid by the country of his birth, Foster's Fairplay takes the liberty to make a suggestion, to prolong the memory of this great man.

This columnist is quick to agree that he has ruffled some feathers by his frank and forthright opinions in matters he considered to be injurious to the future of the region's cricket. One will recall an argument he put forward at the conclusion of a regional under 19 tournament. Tony's utterances called into question the legitimacy of the action of fast bowler Jermaine Lawson.

He was hauled through the toils by local officialdom for making a comment which he deemed to be real. Subsequent allegations arose when the same Lawson demolished the mighty Australians in a Test match a few years later. The bowler was sent for remedial rehabilitation. Cozier was vindicated.

One cannot recall any act or word of "I told you so" coming from the man in response to the later development.

All that must take a back seat, as cricket must be the winner. Let a local tribute be paid to a man who has contributed so much, not only to the game, but to those who saw him as their hero. Tony Cozier deserves that and a lot more.

Farewell Tony, you have played your innings with admirable distinction and decency.

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