Top sports psychologist Steven Sylvester says Moeen Ali’s ability to nullify negative judgment is “absolutely remarkable” for a 27-year-old – The Telegraph
Moeen Ali has been an international cricketer for only a matter of weeks, but he is already well versed in the hysteria and hyperbole that provides a soundtrack to the life of an international sportsman.
In that time, Moeen has been drooled over for his defiant hundred in the Headingley Test against Sri Lanka; pitched into a storm of controversy over his public display of support for Gaza; and, most recently, hailed as the natural heir to Graeme Swann, following his match-winning performance against India at the Ageas Bowl.
Thankfully for him, and for England, there is little chance of the man himself becoming swept away on that emotional riptide.
According to Steven Sylvester, a chartered sports psychologist who has worked closely with Moeen for the past two years, the Worcestershire all-rounder is the antithesis of the typical modern- day sportsman and will be unaffected by the praise that followed his six for 67 in India’s second innings at the Rose Bowl. Moeen’s religion — he is a devout Muslim — has shaped his life but the work he has done with Sylvester, who played county cricket for Middlesex and Nottinghamshire, has also had a profound impact on his cricket.
“He’s worked with my concept called ‘withoutEGO’, Sylvester said. “He plays a lot without ego. It’s not just about him and runs, being result-driven and success. It’s about what he can do to be the best possible role model in his sport to showcase what’s important for young people in terms of work ethic, commitment and standards.
“His faith gives him a greater perspective where it’s not about bigger, bolder, stronger, more money, more success, staying hungry, the typical things that a lot of successful sports people are about. “It’s about being humble and having gratitude. The programme we have worked through is about understanding selfishness on one end of the continuum and selflessness at the other end. The idea of ‘Without Ego’ is what can you contribute back, what is your purpose here and what can you see beyond yourself. “What’s amazing about Mo is his commitment to think broader about his impact using cricket as that vehicle.”
Sylvester’s focus on performance rather than results helped Moeen at Headingley in June, where he batted through the final day for his maiden Test century in a courageous attempt to save England from defeat by Sri Lanka.
“The religious and spiritual undertones help him. You combine that with the psychology of ‘Without Ego’ stuff which is not about scoring runs, it’s about the way you bat,” Sylvester said. “It’s not about taking wickets, it’s about how you bowl and how you are developing that bowling. What lines, what lengths, how many revs are you putting on the ball – it’s a slightly different approach.
“The typical ‘get runs and get wickets’ approach is moved to: I have no hope of getting a run or getting a wicket but what I want to do is bat with total commitment to mastery of my skills. It’s an absolute commitment to understanding and cherishing the moment you are in by just batting. It takes a lot of self-regard not to want to just go and smash the ball and get runs.”
Despite his efforts at Headingley, questions were raised about Moeen’s effectiveness as a bowler, and despite his century against Sri Lanka, his England place appeared in doubt when Lancashire’s slow left-armer Simon Kerrigan was added to the squad for the second Test against India at Lord’s.
But England stuck with Moeen and, after some helpful advice from team-mate Ian Bell, their faith was rewarded with a match-winning contribution at Southampton.
Sylvester will continue to play his part in Moeen’s career development but he is the first to admit that he has a rare talent to work with. “I have worked with world champions in snooker, I have worked in football, with golfers and with world-class athletes for the last 10 to 15 years but I have to say that Mo’s ability to nullify any negative judgment is absolutely remarkable for a man aged 27,” Sylvester said.
“I’m not just saying that for effect. I am surprised at his ability to deal with any negativity. His strength of character and resolve are unbelievable. That can’t just be put down to his religion. That’s just his character coming from a cricketing family and understanding the greater impact of what he can do by playing cricket.”
To read the article in the Telegraph click here