The Hazard’s and Ronaldo’s of English Cricket

by Nick Hoult:

Imagine the situation. It is the last over of the Champions Trophy final. You have 14 runs to defend, six balls to bowl. Land six balls in the right place and you will be be a hero.
At the other end is Jos Buttler. You know he hits 30.59 percent of deliveries in the last 10 overs for a boundary because the team statistician has told you so. In fact – with a strike rate of 199.5 – no other batsman in the world is so effective at the end of a one-day international.

So what to do? Length is a no-no. You know those balls disappear into the night sky. Do you bowl yorkers? Wide yorkers? Slower balls, or slower ball bouncers?
This is what makes the art of ‘death’ bowling cricket’s ultimate examination of character and nerve. Ben Stokes failed his test in in the World Twenty20 final when he had 18 runs to defend but was clobbered for four sixes by Carlos Braithwaite. “It was like the whole world had come down on me,” he said. Over the next week in England’s one-day series against South Africa, and then in June’s Champions Trophy, other bowlers will feel that same choking pressure, where their skills will be subjected to the most forensic examination. Some will be heroes, others failures.

Sports psychologist Steve Sylvester, who works with Middlesex and football managers, compares the job to taking a penalty in football. He knows an England international, who was at the top of his game, who could never take a penalty despite his talent. “He knew his emotional world could not tolerate missing a penalty even though he knew he was a world class player,” he explained.

There will be bowlers who are the same. But Sylvester, and people like him, are paid to try and help them overcome those emotional obstacles so they can perform under the most stressful of circumstances.
“I try and understand a player’s tolerance to negativity from the crowd, the media and other cricketers,” he said. “I make them understand the context. You say it is pantomime. It is not you personally, it is the role you are fulfilling. You can either be a hero or a villain. Either way if you are being cheered or booed you have to accept you are there to fulfil a role. One day it could be great and you are a hero. Another you could be a booed and be the villain. That is why you have to have a special character to cope with either of those roles because eventually if you do you job long enough you will end up experiencing both those roles.”

The death overs of course are about more than the final six balls. The last 10 overs of an innings these days are when a total can rocket into the stratosphere with captains allowed only five fielders outside the 30-yard inner circle. When England made their world record 444-3 against Pakistan at Trent Bridge last summer they were 289 for three at the start of the 40th over.
Since the last World Cup in 2015, when England were an embarrassment, they have been reborn and it is in the final stages of an innings they are so dangerous, hitting more boundaries and at a better strike rate than any other team in the world.

th-4Sylvester believes the death bowlers, those who can stop the likes of Stokes and Buttler, will be the superstars of the future. He thinks they will be the “Hazards or Ronaldos” of cricket – in other words, those players most wanted by franchise owners.

Malinga is the master, training his muscles by bowling at a boot placed on the length he is aiming for. England’s bowling coach Ottis Gibson lays out three different coloured cones as targets for his bowlers: a red one wide of off stump, a yellow one aiming at the stumps, and a green one down the leg side. As the bowler enters his delivery stride Gibson calls out a colour. It is designed to replicate a batsman moving around his crease and makes his bowlers learn to think and change their plan at the last moment.
Another drill is to place a bar on two bricks and get the bowlers to try and send the ball underneath it to learn the right length to bowl.
Unorthodox bowlers like Malinga and Bumrah have a natural advantage. Malinga’s release point is about 11 o’clock, so if he is short with his length the ball does not bounce so high, leaving the batsmen with little elevation to use to his advantage. If a bowler has an upright arm like Chris Woakes and bowls short by a couple of inches, the batsman can get underneath the ball. th-9
Australia are the best team in the world at bowling yorkers, according to the numbers. Hastings is part of their Champions Trophy squad and recently produced a death bowling performance in the Big Bash that Kevin Pietersen described as the best he had ever seen.

“If you are nailing a really good yorker not many batsmen around the world, possibly only three or four, can hit it. Nine out of ten times the batsman will only get one run or a dot off it. A dot ball is almost as important as a wicket,” Hastings said.

“Bowling a yorker is a massive effort ball. It has to be the fastest ball you bowl because if you do miss your length and it becomes a low full toss instead the pace will mean the batsmen is not ready to hit it. When I was younger I spent a lot of time working on it. If I am going into a white ball tournament I will do a lot of work on it.
“You need to be able to know your skills in training and have confidence in them. When you are under pressure at the end a lot of different things run through your mind, you need to slow down. You have a think about what is going on.”
Stokes was criticised for sticking to his gameplan and bowling leg stump yorkers, but when the stakes are so high, is it not inevitable a bowler will fall back on what he does best? “Good death bowlers for me are like world class chess players,” says Sylvester. “They are working out exactly what the batsman is doing and they are making a plan to disrupt what the batsman thinks they are going to receive.

“He needs to plan for contingency. If the yorker is going out of the ground in the non-emotional world it is easy. You just change the delivery. But when you get the adrenaline rush and the pressure that is when the work needs to be done to get him to pause and consider what to do. Slow the over down.”

th-14Of course coaches do not want the same drama as the rest of us. They want their team to have done the job before the death overs. “Everyone talks about death bowling but no team has mastered the art of death bowling, most teams are travelling at the back end so if you can pick up wickets and up front, your death bowling is always going to be good,” said Russell Domingo, the South Africa coach. “If the opposition is only two or three down with eight overs to go, your death bowling is always going to be poor. So picking up wickets in the middle overs is crucial.”
Domingo stands and falls by winning matches – and is currently having to reapply for his job – but the rest of us want entertainment. We want close finishes. We want to see bowlers like Adam Milne of New Zealand having the balance of the match in their, probably sweaty, palm as they bowl the last six balls of a final.
Milne has the lowest economy rate in the final 10 overs since the last World Cup but modestly points out that is an anomaly caused by missing matches through injury. But he has played all around the world in the IPL and for New Zealand, and been captained by two of the best batsmen around, Kane Williamson and De Villiers. Communication is key.

“I try and tell myself to just put a smile on people’s faces, get to the top of your mark and be confident about what you do. AB De Villiers at mid-off would say to me: ‘Decide what you bowl and be confident’. If you have any doubts that is when it might go wrong. If I stand at the top of my mark and decide on a yorker then I back myself 100 percent.

th-11“It can be hard when a batsman is moving around and getting into different positions. But you have to be calm and make sure you have a ball in your mind. Most of the time when you change your mind at the last second of delivery it can go wrong. Sometimes you can change the direction but not the style of ball. If you are going to bowl a yorker and the batsman steps away you can follow him. That is a lot easier to change than switching to a totally different delivery.”
“We are not talking cricket skills,’ added Sylvester. “My view would be how can you blend your emotional world into your ability to execute the skills that are well honed at the death. The work to be done with death bowlers is when it is not going right and drilling down into their mindset. Normally they close off when it goes wrong. The consequences of not speaking about it are huge. You want them to say ‘it does not stop me as I have a big role to play as a death bowler.’”
Possibly the biggest role of all over the next few weeks.


Article by Nick Hoult of The Telegraph


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The Togetherness & Success of Sheffield United FC

Sheffield v Bradford City - English League One - Bramall Lane StadiumBig celebrations on the pitch at Bramall Lane today. It’s been a great season and i’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time at SUFC.   For Chris Wilder & his team to see the season out not only as Champions but on 100 points too, the first club since York in the region to ever achieve this, what an awesome acheivement.

Well done to Sheffield United & the brilliant and faithful Fans – they have been amazing.  I hope you get a sense of their energy from the video below.  Our marketing office are hoping to put together a more comprehensive post on the season shortly.

“Yes, this club has played in higher divisions and including the Premier League. But the togetherness of this group is there to be seen in every aspect. The same goes for the points tally and the goals too.” – Chris Wilder


For more updates and all the behind the scenes footage you can visit the Facebook page here: Town v Sheffield Utd - League One - Sixfields Stadium

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Middlesex CCC Skipper on winning the County Championships

“It was about trying to buy into a culture where we have each other’s backs when times are tough” says Middlesex skipper James Franklin on the work Middlesex did with team Psychologist Steven Sylvester ahead of their Championship win.

Franklin with Steven

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Is a big ego crucial to achieving sporting greatness?

unnamedPrince Naseem Hamed was the world’s best featherweight boxer between 1997 and 2000. But one wonders how much more he could have achieved had he not become lost in the fog of his own hype and cut corners in training, resulting in the only defeat of his career to Marco Antonio Barrera in 2001 and subsequent retirement, aged just 28, in 2002.

Sport psychologist Steven Sylvester, who has worked with England cricketer Moeen Ali, two world champion snooker players and a major-winning golfer, among numerous other athletes, cites the problems caused when a sportsman or sportswoman adopts a selfish approach.

“That mindset is a catastrophe for me,” said Sylvester. “We want athletes to make the right decisions on the pitch under pressure and think how they might benefit their team-mates rather than just themselves. ”

By Alec Fenn Football writer BBC SPORT

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Do cricketers need a big ego to perform at the top of their game?

15672684_1810958985844098_8484670838494988549_n-2Do cricketers need a big ego to perform at the top of their game? Steven Sylvester, psychologist of county champions Middlesex, thinks not. If you want to get the best out of yourself, rather than give into selfish drives, simply detox that ego.

Realise that ego is not belief Ego is your natural defence system, triggered when strong emotions such as anxiety and fear sweep through you. It is a concentration on self-interest so it’s thinking about yourself. Am I good at this? Will I do well here? Whereas self belief is a lateral deep understanding that you can choose – a level of confidence that you can do well at what you do just for the sheer desire. Ego or selfishness is more of an arrogance, there is no belief in it, just a desire to do well. It’s about protecting what we think we are good at or not good at.

That ego covers up lack of belief Often, when you scratch the surface, belief in your competence is not as high as it seems. Someone with high levels of belief has high levels of perceived competence, so they relax. Someone with a lower level of belief is more egotistical because they are worried about their performance.

Master your skills From a very early age we are taught that life is about winning and losing, and we focus on results. Something that we cannot control. This creates stress and can lead to poor mental health as well as poor performance. Instead, we should focus on what we can actually do – our skills. Focus on what we can do differently so we can master our craft

Learn from your mistakes Rather than seeing errors as failures, we must learn from them. Do not resist, or try to cover them up. Drill down into that, examine them and work out what they are telling you, rather than covering up mistakes.

Set wider goals When we think about ourselves we tend to get nervous and worry about what could go wrong. But when we play for others, when the focus is outwards rather than inward, we become more creative and resolved, more effective. If you have a reason beyond yourself for performing, you seem to play better. Moeen Ali, who I have worked with, has a deep religious perspective on life. He feels there is something more to his performance than just him, which means he is more selfless in what he’s doing. Playing cricket is how he is serving others, and his God, and as a result, he is much freer as a performer than someone who is quite self-obsessed or quite self-centred about what they do today. What their performance will be tomorrow – that kind of approach.

Be consistent If we feel one thing and do another, it causes problems. To be authentic and have integrity, what you feel and what you say and do, need to be the same.

Have fun If you are having fun, you are free – and if you are free, you will have a far greater sense of well being.

Have clarity in life Are you clear on what your purpose and contribution to the team, the club or the community that you live in or serve? There is more to life than just work or just our play, and we need to ask what the ultimate legacy is that we wish leave behind.

Interview by Crispin Andrews for The Cricketer January 2017 Edition

Steven Sylvester is a Chartered Psychologist working in elite level Sport and Business. He is a sought after key note speaker and the author of the psychology self-help book – ‘DETOX YOUR EGO’ available on Amazon worldwide.

Contact for enquires on keynote addresses/talks or psychology consultations with Steven Sylvester.

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An organisation cannot be more effective than its people



Does your organisation need some help with identifying its DNA ?Are you ready for some dynamic cultural change?



We run a unique organisational audit (the withoutEGO audit for high performance) and tailored assesments for companies looking for real sustainable change in a very short time frame.

Whether you’re a company going through rapid growth, getting ready to sell or merge or simply trying to keep sales on track in a challenging marketplace, your people are your greatest assets and the culture they work in is critical to their well being and ultimate performance.
Creating a work environment that both nurtures and facilitates high performance under pressure is key. It is possible to have both success and wellbeing in the workplace. It’s all about creating the right culture so that your staff feel both valued and motivated and importantly, free to perform. The withoutEGO cultural audit is based on 15 years of research with both World Champions and global leaders of business – on what makes them tick and perform under pressure and what makes the ideal environment for sustained high performance.

This excerpt below is taken from the article ‘How Middlesex won the Championships’.

The story began behind close doors on a rainy April day in Oxford with a frank assessment of Middlesex’s chances. During an abandoned university game the squad talked with psychologist Steven Sylvester.
“We thought people suspected we were a bit soft at times”, Ollie Rayner recalls. “A lot of our focus in pre-season was about how to build a team atmosphere and not think individually. The guys bought into that ethos and we were a really tight unit all year”.

Skipper James Franklin cites Sylvester as an unsung hero: “It was about trying to buy into a culture where we have each other’s backs when times are tough. Middlesex has maybe been perceived as a club that’s had a lot of talented individuals, but there’s always been an underlying ambition to play for England. We’re trying to change that. Playing for Middlesex and doing well for Middlesex will result in those other things just happening

To read the full article on ‘How Middlesex won the Championship’ after a long 23 year wait in front of a packed crowd at Lords, log onto The Cricketer Magazine’s website for the full issue

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Performing for the benefit of others.

Being self-absorbed and selfish at work not only leads to unhappiness & stress but also poor performance in both yourself and your team. When you are able to align your personal & professional mastery you become freer and much happier even under pressure.
Your new found joy for work is like a magnet as you’ll inspire others around you to achieve more. You’ll go from a transactional style of operating to a transformational style.
High performance is a natural by-product of adopting a more selfless way of working17039426_1845693929037270_3690968119950822218_o

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Neal Ardley has transformed AFC Wimbledon.


“We had a proper process before we appointed Neil – we had a lot of applications,” said chief executive Erik Samuelson. “The interview panel was the football club board, Dave Bassett and Steve Sylvester, a psychologist who is still working with the team.

“Steve gave us a rundown of the candidates and when Neil got the job he told us what challenges he would face and how he could help him”.

“Neil has transformed the club on the football side. I’m sure his vision has evolved a bit – but we have improved every year. Sometimes that is backstage stuff that people don’t see on the pitch. Sometimes it has been gradual improvement, but we’ve always been comfortable that we’re heading in the right direction”.

To read the full article:

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Jose Mourinho must create joy not fear: says leading Psychologist

According to Steven Sylvester, Jose Mourinho has repeatedly criticised his team in public and should think about changing his approach.

Manchester United manager Jose MourinhoJose Mourinho’s sombre countenance on the touchline and failure to win the “hearts and minds” of his players since arriving at Manchester United could prove his downfall, believes a leading British sports psychologist.

The United manager has repeatedly criticised his team in public this season and the 53-year-old should think carefully about changing his approach, according to Steven Sylvester who works with Premier League players as well as world champions from other sports.

“It’s very strange. In my experience I haven’t seen him [Jose Mourinho] constantly criticise players in the media, this is a new style from him,” Sylvester, who is also psychologist to the cricket county championship winners Middlesex, said in an interview with Reuters.

“Although they must have done something to make him question if these players are at standard he wants, I think it is a way to mask his frustration that he can’t get the team delivering according to his mandate.

“The whole point of good leadership is to win the hearts and minds and if you criticise players in the press you’re going against that.

“The players will sit there in the dressing room thinking, ‘who’s next, what happens if this goes wrong today?’ It creates more fear within the culture than joy.”

Mourinho, who has made an underwhelming start at United, recently said his living arrangements in Manchester have been a “bit of a disaster”.

He painted a miserable picture of himself holed up in his hotel, alone without his family and unable to venture out to local restaurants because of the prospect of being hassled by fans and photographers.

“There’s a lot going on there and if you listen to the content you can be distracted from the main theme,” explained Sylvester, author of the book ‘Detox Your Ego’ (

“For me Mourinho is in major transition as how to build a new culture at Manchester United.

Steven Sylvester - Chartered Psychologist“He is not going to go to the media and talk about what he is doing to get the culture changed and to get the performance right or how he is assessing the players, so he has to talk about something else.

“He has been one of the best at being able to take people away from the scent of what he is really doing. I think it’s probably tactical.

“Having said that, he has looked really unhappy and I think being unhappy transmits to the players when you’re in transition.

“This means it is harder to get them to play with the rhythm that he wants. It takes time for a group of players to assimilate.”

On the eve of United hosting Arsenal at Old Trafford, Mourinho claimed on Friday that rival manager Arsene Wenger received the respect that was not shown to him, even though “my last title was 18 months ago, not 18 years ago.”

Yet rather than opting for that typical swipe at Wenger, Sylvester felt it was about time Mourinho turned on his old “charm” instead.

“I think he should go on the charm offensive, focus on what he can do to win the hearts and minds not only of his players and staff, but of the fans, too,” Sylvester said.

“He needs the support of the media and the goodwill factor needs to come across in his leadership style.

“Mourinho talks more about individual errors than collective errors. I believe in the collective. You win together and you lose together.”

Source: Reuters Published:November 19, 2016 8:58 am

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Steven Sylvester goes to Buckingham Palace with Middlesex CCC

DETOX YOUR EGO Author of DETOX YOUR EGO, Steven Sylvester was a guest at Buckingham Palace on Thursday with the Middlesex Cricket Champions to receive their trophy from HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.

Prince Philip is Patron and ‘Twelfth Man’ of the Lord’s Taverners – and he presented the team with the Lord’s Taverners ECB Trophy. It is the 43rd year that the winners of the County Championships have enjoyed a special Royal engagement since the trophy was first introduced by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh in 1973

As Patron and ‘Twelfth Man’ Prince Philip asked the Lord’s Taverners to organise a ceremony which he hosts at Buckingham Palace every year to honour the winners of this coveted trophy.

Whilst unable to attend the presentation reception at the Palace himself, Middlesex’s County Championship winning captain James Franklin said:

“Lifting the County Championship trophy at Lord’s this year as Captain of this great and historic club ranks as one of the proudest achievements of my career to date. To have won it in such exceptional circumstances, in the final minutes of a long and testing season, made the entire experience one that I and everyone involved at the club will simply never forget.

For Steven Sylvester who is the Team Psychologist at Middlesex CCC this was an extra special occasion as he was reunited with his old boss and teammate and ex England Captain Mike Gatting who he talks about making his professional cricketing debut with in his book DETOX YOUR EGO.

When asked what Steven thought of the occasion, he said “I’ve supported Middlesex since I was a small boy and had always dreamt of playing at Lords. Whilst I went on to achieve that dream and play with and against some of my cricketing hero’s, this experience today and being a part of these guys achieving their dreams is by far the best feeling. They’re a great team, all of them and they thoroughly deserve this”.

Have a great day

Claudia – Publicity for DETOX YOUR EGO. All enquires to

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