Tag: Obituary

Tony Cozier – the man who saw all and knew all of West Indies cricket

Cricket fans moan about commentators a lot, but in general we are well served by our sport. Tastes differ, but very few talk down to us and the majority have the capacity to offer some sort of insight when working in the right environment.

But as the world becomes smaller, even the best broadcasters are becoming more homogenous. They watch the same games, read the same articles and they know the same things about the same players. There’s a slick Dubai internationalism about it all.

Not everyone’s like that though. There are still a select few – generally from the smaller Test nations – who bring a distinct flavour of their region with them. Tony Cozier was of course one.

It is not about knowing the players. Every commentator should know the players. It is about knowing the people. When the West Indies toured, Cozier could tell you not only how a player played, but why he did so. He would know his upbringing; he would know where he learned his cricket; he would know how that player was viewed in the region.

Cozier would know the player’s background better than the player himself did. He would know the history of the club he had played for in his youth and how the island’s cricket and culture had evolved since the last great player from that same club. Some commentators tell you everything they know. It’s not that Cozier wouldn’t – he couldn’t. He could show you the relevant tip of the iceberg but you always got the sense that there was infinitely more left concealed.

In recent years Cozier seemed increasingly pissed off with the chronic ill health of West Indies cricket, but his despair never reached the point of giving up on it. It was almost as if the bouts of impotent frustration would renew his energy to look for solutions – and by the broad bat of Sobers, he had to look hard to find them.

He’d cover the latest spat between players and board, or the latest Test series defeat and you’d forgive him for being worn down by it all. But then next thing you know, he’d be full of cautious hope about Rahkeem Cornwall or someone. That is what you might accurately call irrepressible enthusiasm for the sport.

Cozier was one of the few men with an impartial overview of West Indies cricket. You’d think a man who could take a step back and see things for how they were and how problems might be resolved would be greatly valued, but this doesn’t seem to have been the case.

More than one obituary has mentioned that Cozier recently filed a lawsuit against WICB president Dave Cameron. Cameron pretty much called him a blind old man.

Blind? Tony Cozier? The man who saw all and knew all of West Indies cricket surely had the clearest vision of all.

Mop-up of the last few days – it’s been a while

Sorry the website was knackered. We’re sure you all missed us enormously. Web hosts being web hosts, we’ve no clear idea what actually happened, but it seemed like actual damage and not just someone flicking the wrong switch.

At least there were backups. This contrasts with our old job where a guy who sometimes wore a bright orange T-shirt like Raoul Moat hadn’t bothered checking whether the backup process was actually working properly. It wasn’t.

First, some actual cricket

Bangladesh have reached the final of the Asia Cup. To get there, they beat Pakistan who must surely be starting to question their policy of playing only one or possibly two competent batsmen. They also beat Sri Lanka, about whom Angelo Mathews said: “It will take a little time for the younger guys to start performing. We have to be patient, but this is not the right time to be patient.”

Good for Bangladesh though. They’ll lose the final to India, obviously, but losing a final to India is progress for Bangladesh who are much more used to losing to them in the group stages – something they’ve already ticked off this week.

Now the bad news

Martin Crowe’s died. We’re old enough to have seen him bat, but being as we were about 16, there’s little point airing our views and analysis – this isn’t Radio 1 after all.

All we will say is that had he played for another country, Crowe would have played more Tests, scored more runs and possibly off the back of that become an even better batsmen. Even if he’d merely maintained the same standard, he would be spoken about more today. Perhaps as Kane Williamson starts to break records he’ll be spoken of more.

In a decade from 1985 to the end of his career, Crowe averaged 50.96. This in an era when few hit such heights and while playing half his cricket in a country that often favours the bowlers. That this translates to just 4,842 runs in 61 matches was not his fault.

For more on the man, read Gideon Haigh – “as understated and soaringly magnificent as a Doric column.” Haigh also makes a point of highlighting who Crowe was up against during his career. You can be damn certain that the opposition’s best bowlers were reserved for him as well.


We’ve just been trawling while writing our regular Twitter round-up for Cricinfo. You know what? We actually learned something this week – something useful. We believe this is the first reported instance of Twitter providing such a thing. You can find out what it was tomorrow.

Cricket Badger comes out tomorrow as well. It’s quite a short one this week, but better that than when it becomes overlong and cumbersome. You can sign up to receive it here.

Brian Close hadn’t heard of flinching

We’re not really old enough to know Brian Close the cricketer, but we know the legend. He was the youngest man to play for England and he will also be remembered as the bravest.

In light of what’s happened to other cricketers since Close, it isn’t really right to glorify his lack of regard for his own physical wellbeing. That doesn’t mean it isn’t appropriate to marvel at it though.

Quite how a man trains himself not to flinch is beyond us. To flinch in the face of impending physical pain is a basic impulse, but Close played his cricket without this entirely natural reaction. Whether batting or fielding at short leg, he simply took the impact.

The third evening of the Old Trafford Test of 1976 is for what he will always be remembered. He was 45 years old and the West Indies bowling was as quick, brutal and unforgiving as has ever been seen. With no law at the time preventing it, every ball was a bouncer. A fair proportion of them hit him.

When you see the footage, what’s striking – other than his age and the fact that he wasn’t wearing a helmet – is that quite often he simply didn’t bother with evasive action. The relentlessly short-pitched bowling meant that in an hour of cricket, he scored just one run. But he wasn’t dismissed.

“How can the ball hurt you?” he is supposed to have once said. “It’s only on you for a second.”

This steadfast refusal to accept a clear and obvious fact would sound even more ridiculous if the man hadn’t also spent 20-odd years walking the talk.

Richie Benaud – the greatest commentator of them all

Mourning everyone.

Richie Benaud has died and a small part of our brain that responds to blue skies, lengthening days and Test cricket has also died. You can’t spend as long in someone’s company as most of us have spent listening to Richie and not feel like you know them.

There are other public figures who we see a lot; people who are familiar from newspapers and TV – but you don’t actually sit there with them for any length of time. That’s the difference. Richie was, in a very real sense, part of many cricket fans’ lives. He wasn’t just the soundtrack – which would be enough cause for mourning in itself – he was the portal through which the sport arrived. He brought cricket and taught cricket and most of us will be forever grateful for that.

Don’t speak – the art of commentary

Commentating’s like writing – everyone thinks they can do it. They think that just because they know the English language, they can do the job. It doesn’t really work like that.

You know the bit in a Test match when they pan round all the people in fancy dress. They did that once while Michael Slater was on commentary. Batman came on screen. “There’s Batman,” he informed us.

It’s not easy to talk for two minutes when you have no script and haven’t planned in advance what to say. Nor is it easy to sit silent for two minutes when you know you’re working as a commentator. But it’s about adding value.

Sometimes that takes a lot of words and sometimes it doesn’t. For example, Richie Benaud didn’t require many words to put into place what should be the first rule of TV commentary: “Put your brain into gear and if you can add to what’s on the screen then do it – otherwise shut up.”

The impossible trick

Poor commentators are easy to name, but what’s truly telling is that even the good ones start to get on your nerves with certain things after a while. Nasser Hussain’s pluralisation, for example: ‘Your Gayles, your McCullums, your Kohlis, your Maxwells’.

Point is, you can’t talk for hours and hours and hours and not get on someone’s wick. Cricket is a long game and familiarity breeds irritation. No commentator is universally loved – you need only read a ‘dream commentary team’ debate on social media or in the comments of a website to appreciate that fact.

Except Richie was universally loved. At least insofar as that’s possible. We feel the same about Richie’s death as David Cameron does. Shane Warne’s written something that moved us. These aren’t people who we’d normally agree with, let alone both on the same day, but yet we’re united by this.

To touch so many people without also pissing them off when you’ve commentated on long, drawn-out Test matches for fifty years is an incredible, just about impossible achievement. Richie Benaud is, sadly, irreplaceable.

He wasn’t a bad cricketer either. Not a bad cricketer at all.

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