June 8, 2013

South African wolves lack bite

AB' de Villiers and the dogs of war yelped to defeat

We all enjoy a good animal simile, but when handling mammalian figures of speech, caution is advised. They may look cuddly, friendly, and harmless, but if you don't know what you're doing, they can bite you on the bottom. AB de Villiers, however, is South African, and South Africans do not know fear, so on Thursday, he was quite happy to let his pre-tournament press conference take a zoological turn, as he explained his team strategy against India.

"We'll come out like a pack of wolves."

This did not go down well in these parts. Perhaps the hedges of suburban South Africa are thronged with wolves; perhaps South African buses are crowded with powerfully-toothed canines, and gangs of the furry beasts loiter outside South African supermarkets smoking cigarettes and moulting all over the pavement; but in this country there are no wolves. They are extinct. Even the football team known as The Wolves is on its last legs.

To remind us that what was once a wolfy paradise is now entirely bereft of the happy-go-lucky scavengers, was particularly insensitive. Rights 4 Wolves have also complained that de Villiers' remarks were wolfist, wolfaphobic, and perpetuated negative wolf stereotypes.

The problem with wild animal similes is that, like wild animals, they don't do what you expect them to do. It's hard to know what AB had in mind. Wolves are not particularly good at cricket, their lack of opposable thumbs making it hard for them to bowl, field, or down a high-energy protein drink whilst signing a miniature bat.

Perhaps he meant that he and his team-mates intended to slowly circle the ground snarling at people? Or maybe they were hoping to unnerve the Indian batsmen by warily stalking up to them one at a time and sniffing their bottoms, before urinating on their shoes?

Duran Duran made the same mistake with their 1982 single "Hungry Like The Wolf". Why pick on the wolf? It's no more hungry than any other creature. The platypus, for example, eats at least half its own body weight every day, and the video for "Hungry Like The Platypus", featuring Simon Le Bon rooting around the bottom of a stream wearing a beak and rubber flippers, would have been far more entertaining.

Anyhow, it turned out that howling Abraham and the dogs of war were a bit more "Cockerpoo" than "Call Of The Wild". Their bowling lacked bite, and having failed to collar the Indian batsmen, they were soon brought to heel, losing not with a growl, but a yelp.

South Africa have another chance to redeem themselves, but before then, on Saturday, it's the fixture that we're already sick of. The mangy lions of England will take on the asthmatic kangaroos of Australia in the first of many, many, many, dear God how many games of cricket. No doubt David Gower will be on hand in the commentary box to give us another helping of reheated Ashes "banter", Shane Warne will retort with something equally inane, and the whole of the cricket world will yawn and turn over to watch the tennis.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here