Tony Cozier: West Indian commentator dies aged 75

Tony Cozier
Tony Cozier was known as "the voice of West Indies cricket"

Legendary West Indian commentator Tony Cozier has died at the age of 75.

A familiar and respected voice around the world, the Barbadian will be remembered for a career in TV, radio and journalism spanning 58 years.

Born in Bridgetown in 1940, he made his BBC Test Match Special debut in 1966 and also wrote several books.

"Tony was the master of going between TV and radio ball-by-ball commentary. He was the master of both," said BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew.

"He's easily the best I've come across in 25 years at being able to do both disciplines."

Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport, said: "Tony will be remembered with fondness by everyone at the BBC.

"Since his Test Match Special debut 50 years ago this summer, Tony has been a very popular commentator on the programme during matches against West Indies and throughout many major tournaments.

"His voice was one of the most recognisable in the game and he will be sadly missed. We pass our condolences to his family and friends."

The son of a journalist, Cozier studied journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, and began commentating and writing on West Indian cricket in 1958.

He played hockey as a goalkeeper for Barbados and cricket as an opening batsman and wicketkeeper for two Barbados clubs, Wanderers and Carlton.

But he became a household name through his work with major media organisations throughout the world, including the BBC, Channel Nine and Sky.

In December 2011, he was awarded honorary life membership of the Marylebone Cricket Club for services to the game, and the media centre at the Kensington Oval in Barbados is named after him.

'The perfect soundtrack to any cricket match'

Test Match Special commentator Jonathan Agnew

"Tony Cozier was one of the finest writers and broadcasters in the game. He started reporting in 1958 and seven years later he hit the airwaves for the first time.

"Fifty years on, he was still commentating on Test Match Special when England toured the West Indies.

"Throughout his career Cozier had to tread the tense tightrope of Caribbean politics, where even the slightest negative observation of a player's performance can provoke a furious nationalistic backlash.

"He withstood this stoically and determinedly, remaining a strong critic of the West Indies Cricket Board's lack of organisation and outlook.

"Tony moved seamlessly between television and radio boxes throughout the world, gleefully describing the West Indies' domination of the 1980s and then lamenting their subsequent demise.

"He was a wonderfully descriptive and disciplined commentator, his melodic Bajan accent the perfect soundtrack to any cricket match."

Tony Cozier and Tino Best
Cozier's final Test for TMS was in his native Barbados in 2015, with Tino Best alongside him in the commentary box

The West Indies view: 'He spoke the truth'

Former West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding told BBC Sport: "I spent a lot of hours with Tony Cozier. He enjoyed life, he worshipped cricket and worshipped West Indies cricket. And he would take on people who tried to criticise West Indies cricket unfairly."

LISTEN: Michael Holding and Jonathan Agnew pay tribute on BBC Radio 5 live

Ex-Windies paceman Tino Best told BBC Sport: "He was a figure that I really respected. People will be saddened, especially in Barbados and at the Wanderers cricket club because he was very influential there.

"We grew up with Tony. He was an outspoken person. If he saw you weren't playing well, he would speak about it. That's what I respected about him. He was a person that never sugar-coated things.

"Selectors did listen to him - he did get some of the guys dropped. It was never a problem with me, because he spoke the truth. He was a bit harsh at times, but honest."

'Cricketing commentary royalty'

Test Match Special producer Adam Mountford

"He had a voice which instantly transported you from wherever you were in the world to the sun-drenched beaches of Barbados.

"Tony, or Winston Anthony Lloyd Cozier to give him his full name, was cricketing commentary royalty. It was a privilege to share a commentary box with him.

"He appeared on Test Match Special for the first time 50 years ago this summer at Headingley, the ground where the 2016 international season begins next week.

"In the 50 years since that summer, Tony became one of our most popular overseas commentators on Test Match Special, possessing one of the most recognisable voices in all broadcasting.

"He actually played a part in one of the most iconic moments in TMS history, even though he didn't actually say a word.

"During the infamous 'leg over' incidentexternal-link which caused such hilarity between Jonathan Agnew and Brian Johnston, Tony was actually in the corner of the commentary box.

"He could have stepped in at any moment to intervene, but instead chose to watch on and allowed one of our most magical moments to play out."