Dr. Freud’s Casebook : The Wicket-Keeper Who Couldn’t Appeal

The Freud Museum in Hampstead, which I visited with my Daughter last week.

Freud Museum

Although sports psychology is big business these days, the worlds of psychoanalysis and cricket rarely meet.  The exception that springs to mind is, of course, Mike Brearley, who has lectured at the museum in the past (and who puts forward an interesting argument here that Test Cricket is being supplanted by T20 in the same way that the long drawn out and often apparently aimless process of analysis is being edged out by the quicker fix of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy).

I like to think, though, that if the good Doktor had arrived in England a little earlier than 1938 he would have been intrigued by this case of what appears to be hysterical mutism, as described by Bill Bowes in Express Deliveries (there are certain similarities with the famous case of ‘Dora’, for instance).  Perhaps a few sessions on that comfy-looking couch might  even have even enabled the hapless stumper to extend his first-class career beyond the two appearances for Middlesex that he actually managed.

The Man Who Couldn’t Appeal

“In the MCC team was E.H. Sweetland, one of the best wicket-keepers I have ever known, a six-footer with superb skill at taking the ball on the leg-side, which, of course, is the blind side for wicket-keepers.  His long arms would bring the ball back and whisk off a bail like lightning.  Yet this magnificent player, with all the potential of an England ‘keeper, simply could not appeal.  It seems an absurd thing to say of a man, but there it was.

We used to tell him that if he could only have a week with Yorkshire he would make more appeals than Dr. Barnardo.  He was given every encouragement to yell his head off, but not a sound did he utter.  When he flipped off the bail like a maestro he would quietly put it back again.  One of the few times he was awarded a stumping happened, I remember, when one of the slips, in the excitement of the moment, made the appeal for him.  When the ball hit a batsman’s pads the bowler might shout himself hoarse without a whisper from Ted.

Naturally there is a powerful psychological effect, even though the umpire gives “Not out”, if both bowler and wicket-keeper shout together.  Ted once stumped a man off my bowling and that time the wicket was granted simply because I yelled ‘Howzat’ from my own end with the vocal power of two players.  I suppose it was Ted’s strange taciturnity which kept him in club cricket.  More than once I have heard first-class umpires ask him why he did not appeal, and certainly if he had appealed he would have numbered hundreds of first-class cricketers among his victims.”

If any psychoanalysts happen to be reading this, by the way, I’d be interested to hear your diagnosis.  The best I can do is that Sweetland may have been subconsciously expressing some latent hostility to his Father by refusing to appeal off the bowling of the tall, bespectacled, ‘Avuncular’ Bowes.  But then I am a rank amateur in these matters.

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2 thoughts on “Dr. Freud’s Casebook : The Wicket-Keeper Who Couldn’t Appeal

  1. I diagnose a fear of rejection, stemming from a childhood incident. Sweetland minor found himself trapped in the WC and appealed for help. Eventually his Nanny came, showed him that he just needed to twist the door handle in the other direction, turned from him and marched away.

    That’ll be £500. Next, please.

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