27 March, 2015. 12:06
ERROL PARKER | Editor-at-large | Contact
CANDID PHOTOS OF Alex Kountouris, the Australian cricket team physiotherapist, have been uncovered from before he met Shane Watson.
Pictured with a mane of healthy wavy hair and a jet black beard, the youthful looking Kountouris seems to look carefree among the “bulletproof” players of yesteryear.
That was from a time when Australian cricket was in its heyday.
Now just days away from the Bledisloe-esque showdown between Australia and New Zealand in the ICC World Cup Cricket Grand Final showdown at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Alex Kountouris looks as if he’s been to hell and back.
“It’s been a long road,” says Kountouris.
“Just getting him through the world cup has been an achievement in itself,”
“We can only hope he doesn’t get injured voting tomorrow or something – I won’t be able to sleep until we’re lifting the trophy on Sunday night.”
Kountouris succeeded the physiotherapist role from Errol Alcott in 2006, who took the Australians from their famous mid-80’s funk to the cricketing powerhouse of the world.
Alcott started with the side on the 1984 tour of the Caribbean and oversaw a period of enormous change in the approach and outlook of players toward the idea of physical fitness and conditioning.
He notoriously implemented “bootcamps” which were very unpopular with many players, most notably Shane Warne – who didn’t see the point of running waist-deep through mud and up and down sand dunes when all he had to do was stand at first slip and roll his arm over for half a day.
Nonetheless, Alcott’s regime played a pivotal role in securing Australia’s place atop the cricketing world for over a decade.
The 59-year-old is now working for the South Sydney Rabbitohs and barely looks day over 40.
With the retirements of perennial stalwarts Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist and Damien Martyn at the end of the 2006 Ashes series, Alcott decided it was time to go too.
“It was the end of an era that day – we’d just given England their worst defeat since the US War of Independence,” recalls Alcott.
“Those blokes were tough – Ian Healy would play with broken fingers because he knew Gilly was knocking on the door,”
“And who remembers Steve Waugh limping his way to 157 not out at The Oval in 2001? You just don’t see that anymore,”
“It was me who let them do it – because they’re grown men. If they wanted to play injured then fuck it, I’d let ’em.”
The current class of Australian fast bowlers has kept Kountouris on his toes, with at least one being injured all the time.
Over the past 16 months injuries have limited Shane Watson to 17 one-day internationals. Over that period, he has averaged 24.5, with a solitary half-century. What has made that record more disappointing is that he has faced at least 20 balls in all but three of those innings, indicating he has typically got a start.
That’s not enough to deflect his critics from calling for the axe.
Calls for Watson to be dropped has become its own beast on social media as thousands of Australians are commenting and generating images and memes depicting the out-of-form batsman in a derogatory fashion.
Regardless of questions surrounding his match fitness or form leading in to the World Cup final, Watson will obvious try his best and a nation collectively wishes him the best of luck – but is that enough?
With additional reporting from Fox Sports, BBC and Jeremy Clarkson.