Unable to make any long term decisions, our national
cricket team including the ‘A’ side, ‘Under 19,’ club and
school teams are being seriously compromised due to a lack of
decisive administration at the BCCSL.
This time around, the Australian
born sports physiotherapist, Alex Kountouri is the latest victim
of an administration, dragging its heels, unable or incapable of
prioritising what is best for Sri Lankan cricket.
Kountouri has worked seven years
with Sri Lanka’s national cricket team as their physiotherapist.
On January 6, 2003, Kountouri informed the BCCSL that he would be
ending his contract, which expired on April 30, this year, as he
wished to return to Australia for personal reasons.
The BCCSL and its Chairman Hemaka
Amarasuriya however did not even speak with Kountouri regarding
his decision until end April, a week before it was time for him to
leave. Absolutely no attempts were made by the BCCSL to begin
looking for a suitable candidate to fill Kountouri’s place
despite him having given the Board four months notice.
Instead, the BCCSL has made one
more ad hoc decision. They have given the job to 26 year old
Christopher Clark, another Australian, who has been living in Sri
Lanka for the last couple of years and is a nephew of Mike Chomley,
who owns and manages a gymnasium called ‘Lifestyles’ in
Clark has an Australian university
degree as a physiotherapist and claims he has worked as a sports
physiotherapist for the last 10 years.
Much of that time while in Australia, he explained.
Speaking to The Sunday Leader Clark admitted he has
no post graduate qualifications in sports physiotherapy.
He told us that he came to Sri
Lanka two years ago, “as a young person wanting to travel.
It’s a beautiful country and a nice place to stay,” he said.
Asked if he believed he was fully qualified to hold such an
important post as physiotherapist for the national cricket team he
replied, “Yes, I realise it is a very important post and I am
capable of holding it.” At his uncle’s gymnasium, Lifestyles,
Clark said he works as a physiotherapist.
Clark maintained he had been
appointed by the BCCSL only in the short term until the conclusion
of the New Zealand tour in Sri Lanka. “It is up to the BCCSL to
extend my contract or not...” he said.
Checking on Clark’s credentials
for the job, we learnt that he graduated from the University of
Melbourne as a physiotherapist only in 1998.
So, there is no way he could have 10 years experience in
this field. Furthermore, according to Australian law, a sports
physiotherapist is granted the title by the Australian
Physiotherapy Association only after passing an exam. This
qualification Clark does not hold.
The BCCSL meantime has advertised
the post on the internet and in Australian newspapers on the
insistence of Alex Kountouri. The latter in fact drafted the
advertisement and had at first offered to assist the Cricket Board
in recruiting a suitable candidate, but has now changed his mind
after being treated in a shamefully shoddy manner.
We learn that Kountouri repeatedly
requested to meet with Chairman, Interim Committee, Hemaka
Amarasuriya to evaluate a proposal he had submitted to the Board
for the development of physiotherapy, medical and fitness services
as well as to discuss recruiting a fully qualified sports
therapist for Sri Lanka’s national team.
Amarasuriya however remained
elusive and met with Kountouri only a week ago after Aravinda de
Silva pressured him to do so.
At this meeting, de Silva had
reiterated that Kountouri due to his extensive experience after
having worked with the Sri Lankan cricket team should be hired as
a sports physio consultant by the BCCSL. This suggestion has been
met with only a vague response that the Cricket Board may contact
Kountouri after November this year.
Following the conclusion of his
contract with the BCCSL on April 30, Kountouri had requested
permission that he be allowed to keep his car and room at the Taj
Samudra where the cricket
team is staying at present until he leaves on May 8.
Both requests had been refused by
the BCCSL. Shocked players of the national team had brought this
to the notice of the Taj management who had offered Kountouri a
room free of charge until he departs on the 8th. Kountouri had
refused the offer, but has expressed deep hurt at the manner in
which he has been treated by the BCCSL after seven years of
service to Sri Lanka’s national cricket team.
Following representations made to
the BCCSL on behalf of Kountouri, Amarasuriya subsequently wrote a
two paragraph letter to him where it was stated that Kountouri had
permission to use his official car and hotel room until he left
The damage however was done by then
and Kountouri refused to accept the belated offer. On April 30, he
handed over the BCCSL owned car and vacated his room at the Taj
Samudra. Up to the time of this article going to print, not a
single member of the BCCSL management had wished Kountouri goodbye
or thanked him for his services to the national team over the last
Kountouri has consistently been
marginalised by cricket administrators who lack continuity on the
one hand and on the other, appear to have no great understanding
of the importance of sports physiotherapy for all up and coming
cricketers in Sri Lanka.
For instance, no physiotherapist
has yet been employed by the board for the training academy at
Kettarama. Kountouri in fact has never even been consulted on this
November, Kountouri threatened to resign after the BCCSL gave
incorrect information to an Australian doctor regarding an injury
that had caused inflammation of a knee tendon suffered by Prabath
Nissanka. Interfering with Kountouri’s judgement in this regard,
the BCCSL nearly jeopardised Nissanka’s cricketing career by
this action. He has since played for Sri Lanka continuously
including the World Cup 2003.
charged that a lack of continuity and professionalism at the BCCSL
and constantly changing management is seriously undermining the
careers of many up and coming cricketers in Sri Lanka.
another example he said that the interim committee of Vijaya
Malalasekera approved to supply gym equipment to premier league
clubs on Kountouri’s recommendation, which he said was a great
initiative. This was passed in mid-2002, however to date only one
club has actually got the equipment as there has been delays
caused by the changing of members on the interim committee. It may
not be the fault of the current interim committee, but the end
result is that Sri Lanka cricket loses.
to make progress
same can be said about renovations approved to the physiotherapy
rooms and players’ change rooms at the BCCSL gymnasium.
Kountouri had been requesting these changes for some time to
accommodate the increase of physiotherapy staff and to modernise
the player change area. The planning began in mid-2002 and was due
to be completed by late last year. However, the area is yet only
90% complete, and still not operational. “These are simple
things that get caught in the cycle of change,” Kountouri said,
adding that this is what makes it hard to make progress.
“Unfortunately for us, other countries will not wait around
whilst we get organised,” he pointed out.
Another 14 page annual report
submitted to the BCCSL interim committee in March last year by
Kountouri on the progress of the national team for the year 2001
was well received by
this group, which at the time was led by Vijaya
however, they were soon to resign and a new committee was formed
headed by Hemaka Amarasuriya.
This same report Kountouri
submitted to the new committee
in October last year. None
of his recommendations however have even been considered.
with the team
do not really blame anyone for not looking at these
recommendations as the previous interim committee was soon out of
power after receiving this information, whilst the current interim
committee received it late in the year and we were on tour for
long periods after this. I am prepared to give them the benefit of
the doubt on this. What this does show is how the lack of
continuity of the administration makes it almost impossible to
make progress in developing Sri Lankan cricket further,”
players’ contracts were available for their perusal only the
night before the first test match with New Zealand recently. If
any one of them had been unhappy with the contents of their
contract it would have had adverse effects on their performance
the next day.
of these considerations appear to figure with the BCCSL management
as they muddle along with a national cricket team now without both
a coach and a physiotherapist. Two key positions in the squad lie
vacant and are at an interim stage as the short term management is
gagged by their designated existence in making long term decisions
to further the development and professional standards of Sri
committee just filling gaps
personality of the interim committee, despite his rank was
too afraid to be named when contacted by The Sunday
Leader regarding the issue surrounding Alex Kountouri.
Badgered by his wife repeatedly, who tried to shout him down
while he attempted to speak to the newspaper, he begged
anonymity. He however garrulously defended his decision and
that of his committee to appoint Christopher Clark as a
sports physiotherapist to the national team as well as the
Cricket Board’s disgraceful treatment of Alex Kountouri.
At first he said no permanent decisions could be taken
regarding national cricket as “we are merely an interim
committee and the next board may simply change all our
decisions.” With regard to Kountouri he said, “we have
gone beyond his contract and allowed him to keep his car and
hotel room until he leaves the island.”
told his permission went too late, he responded saying, “I
had to wait till the entire committee took a decision on
this matter. No sooner it was done, I dispatched the
permission in writing to Kountouri...” Asked if
Christopher Clark is indeed the most suited for the job of
sports physiotherapist for the national cricket team, he
said, “let’s wait and see. Give him a chance. I am
convinced he is the best man for the post. After all, when
Kountouri started working with the team he too was not
dismissed Kountouri’s position that while this was so,
seven years later the dynamics have changed and now it is
important to have a fully qualified sports physiotherapist
working with the national cricket team. He added that there
are two other local physiotherapists who work with the
national team and “this is more than sufficient to fill