Winston Anthony Cozier has left this world. Many cricket fans will read today about his contribution to the coverage of the game, about his inimitable voice being the soundtrack to many childhoods, and about how much poorer the world of cricket will be without him. All of these things are true, of course. To thousands of people, Tony was a superb broadcaster with an exceptional knowledge on the game. But he was also, to the blessed few, a very good friend. I'm counting my lucky stars today that I can call myself one of them.
Although writing this is a cathartic process for me, I do it in the hope of imparting at least some of the person that Tony was away from the microphone. Even writing in the past tense causes a fresh flood of tears, such is the great loss felt at knowing that the happy times that always ensued with Tony are gone forever.
Tony lived life to the fullest. He spent his adult years following cricket around the world, enjoying the "après cricket" just as much as the games themselves. It would be no overstatement to say he loved a drink. But he loved a good drink. Why swig cheap rum when you can order the most expensive? And wine was just the poor cousin of champagne with Tony. Bubbly and oysters was his perfect meal.
When I first met Tony in 2009 in Guyana, my friend Chris and I were drinking 5 year old Eldorado (locally produced rum). Tony was aghast, and immediately ordered a bottle of the 25 year old for us. He was generous like that. "I can only have one with you", he said, "I've got an early flight to Barbados". He said this every half an hour until 2am, when he finally stumbled off to bed. Tony was about the good times.
I have so many memories like that. The spontaneous, drink imbued socialising that ended long after anyone had intended. The quick working lunch we had planned in London, which Tony said would be helped by champagne, and an after dinner liqueur. Little work was done, so we decamped to the pub to watch the cricket. Craft cider was ordered; the work we had to discuss became a distant memory. A Thai dinner followed, Tony loved his Thai food, with gin and tonics and wine, before a return to the pub and rounds of rum. My early afternoon train home long gone, Tony bundled me into a taxi to Paddington with minutes to spare before the last train home. I awoke, with the beginnings of a monster hangover, in the early hours of the morning as the train pulled in to Bristol Temple Meads.
Tony's generosity extended beyond those whom he knew personally. His cricket style commentary of my Dad's life over a video I made for his 70th birthday was the icing on the cake of my Fathers' special day, and I know we will both watch it in the coming weeks with fondness, sadness, and likely a few tears. We recorded his visual intro to the video on opposite sides of the world, as Tony typically struggled with Wi-Fi in far flung regions of the Caribbean to get a Skype connection sufficient to do the job. I know he went above and beyond to find the time and the signal to make it happen because he knew what it meant to me. But that's the guy Tony was.
Tony lived and loved cricket. The state of the game in his beloved West Indies in the last few years broke his heart and frustrated him in equal measure. His outspoken views on what the West Indian Cricket Board were doing to the game often landed him in trouble, but always came from his big, genuine heart.
But nothing made his eyes sparkle more than when he talked about his Granddaughters. These words, from one of his delightful, eloquent emails, were typical of his effusive comments on them:
"My three precocious, delightful, stunning granddaughters keep me entertained and happy"
From his many charming stories, it's clear they were cheeky, mischievous and highly entertaining. They take after their Granddad, then. That sparkle in his eye will surely live on with these bright young girls.
His parting words in his last email to me sum up perfectly everything he was to me.
"I'll raise a glass or two of champagne to you.
As always, Tony/Winston/His Excellency/Whatever"
It wasn't widely known that his first name was Winston, (Tony coming from his middle name Anthony) and he liked it that way. Tony, Winston, you were excellency itself. Tonight, I'll raise a glass of my oldest Eldorado rum to you. My life is richer for having had you in it, and poorer for you having left it. Barbados, cricket, and my world, will never be the same again. RIP Winston.