I came to the cricket party late, not having paid attention to the game until in my late teens and even then, I watched cricket live more than I listened to it. So I didn’t grow up on Tony Cozier’s radio commentary, like long standing cricket fans did. But once I started listening to the radio during away tours, his stints were the ones I looked forward to.
Then, once I started to dabble in cricket journalism in 2003, I looked forward to reading his articles. He seemed to make the words dance on the page. You could visualise the sword being slowly turned in the West Indies Cricket Board’s side when he chose to write with his scathing pen. Sometimes the articles were dramatic, especially when he was predicting gloom and doom. Other times, he took out the happy pen. As a budding writer, I took note.
In 2003, I made my first entrance into a cricket press box. The venue was Sabina Park. I was a lone woman sitting among men whose familiarity was based on history of tours together. It was slightly intimidating to be in close company with names I had heard of or whose articles I had often read.
That first assignment required me to be more out of the press box than in. Frequent whispers of “excuse me….sorry” as I inched my way out of the then narrow rows at Sabina Park for the umpteenth time, eventually ended up with an admonishment from the then Media Officer, that I was interrupting the other members of the media. You see, I was not considered a serious journalist like Tony Cozier. I didn’t do match reports nor commentary so had no need to stay glued to the on-field activity. My job was to profile cricketers for the Caribbean Cricket website, which meant I was often asking them about their favourite foods or their family, in addition to the obligatory cricket questions. I also wrote about off the field happenings, like what food was available.
Memory fails me in recalling the very first interaction with Mr Cozier. (No, it was not Tony to me, for he was born in the same year and same month as my mother.) But what I do remember was being taken aback after interacting with him for a few matches, when something he said to me made me realize that he had been reading my articles!
Chris Gayle had granted me an interview in February 2004 and it was quite extensive. Soon after, the request came. Mr Cozier asked me to contribute an article on Chris Gayle for the magazine he published. I was literally bowled over, and a bit apprehensive. Would my writing style and grammar meet with his approval? I took a stab at it and once he reviewed it, he made some changes and then it was published. The other surprise was that he said I would be paid for it. Good, good money too for what was a hobby for me.
I struck up the courage to request an interview with him and was chuffed when he agreed. I made sure to prepare my questions in advance, as I imagine he would have done, though his elephant-like memory meant that he perhaps did not need to. The interview was carried in two parts in April 2004, such was the extent of his opinions on West Indies cricket.
His ability to recall minute details of past series was legendary. During that infamous West Indies tour to Sri Lanka in 2005, I emailed him to make a correction to Denesh Ramdin’s age which was often quoted inaccurately. He replied with a ‘thank you’, then asked if the radio commentary was coming through clearly. This was my response.