Define ‘dibbly-dobbly medium pace’

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Paul Collingwood bowling (via YouTube)

We all feel that we know it when we see it, but what exactly is dibbly-dobbly medium pace?

Is it just non-spin bowling of a certain velocity (less than 75mph, say)? Or is it something more specific than that.

When we asked people to identify the greatest dibbly-dobbly medium-pace bowler of all time on Twitter, the vast majority of suggestions were batsmen who bowled a bit.

These players were, almost by definition, not particularly effective, so it struck us that there were perhaps two distinct aspects to greatness in this particular field: (a) being the purest example of such a bowler, and (b) being the most effective practitioner.

You might think that being a part-timer is a key aspect of dibble-dobblery, but that doesn’t mean the player can’t still be effective. And at the same time, isn’t there something fundamentally awe-inspiring about a player able to carve out a successful career solely off the back of medium pace bowling?

Bowlers who fall into the latter category also raise another important question: does a surfeit of skill render you ineligible for inclusion in this category? Can a talented swing bowler like Praveen Kumar truly be considered dibbly-dobbly purely on the basis that he doesn’t unduly trouble the speed gun?

As you can see, this is an open-ended sort of question. Feel free to have your say.


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  1. How young were the respondents? And how kiwi? I wonder whether some important contenders have been left out due to lack of memory. Obviously “all time” goes back further than that but “dobble” is a more recent term. When history books tell us a batsman was also a competent bowler of gently paced “cutters”, would we say they “dobbled” in modern parlance?

    1. There is certainly a strong Kiwi tradition of medium pace. Larsen, Harris, even Jesse Ryder in more recent times.

      I’m not sure I’d have had Collingwood down as ‘dibbly dobbly’, though, it does seem that mere medium pace-ness is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition of the dibbly dobbly descriptor. Is ‘military medium’ the only other type of non-spin slower bowling (leaving aside the Trevor Chappell style…)?

      Any votes for Ballance?

  2. Nah, the first line – we all know it when we see it. Also yes, a surfeit of skill should render the player ineligible. OK, here’s my attempt – ‘non-spin bowling below 75mph, where 1. the bowler doesn’t have a particular plan, and 2. the over could easily go for 22 runs so long as the batsman doesn’t mind appearing foolish.’

  3. Does it also have psychological value like spin by sending the batsman off-kilter after, say, a fast attack. Occasionally effective. A ‘what’s happening here’ sort of thing. There was a huge yellow advert for Oomi in the middle of this post. I guess I should know what it is but it professes to ‘improve member value’. If I can get more than two uses out of it then I’m in.

    1. That was certainly always true of Stick Cricket – after getting used to the rhythm of the pace attack, anything slower used to completely undo me.

      1. God damn it. I haven’t played that game in years and now I’m about to waste and entire day remembering it’s nuances!

    1. All I know is that Chris Harris has a middle name of Zinzan, therefore deserves any accolades headed his way.

  4. Surely no one comes close to King Gavin, by whatever benchmark used.

    What about spin bowlers above a certain velocity? and by that I mean Anil Kumble, who was technically a spinner but could (and would) bowl faster than venkatesh prasad.

    1. Here’s a depressing game: guess the age of Gavin Larsen. Discovering the correct answer has made me feel at least half a decade older myself 🙁

      1. I had the same reaction. But then I consoled myself with the fact that at least I’m not as old as Gavin Larsen himself.

  5. For me, true dibbly dobbly is the type that will spark genuine fear in the eyes of a proper batsman. It’s filth, we all know it’s filth, but it is on a length and nibbles. The proper batsman knows he should feast on it and take the first over for at least 12, but the rare lack of pace and generally unknown dynamics rend them a shaking mess for a good few overs until they have re-calibrated. Attacking shots seem to fly off in the air at waist height, defensive shots simply refuse to feel right in the middle of the bat.

    Ponting taking down Vaughan in the 2005 Ashes immediately springs to mind, I can also remember Dhoni almost snaring KP.

  6. As a New Zealander dibble and dobble are birth rights.

    Justin Vaughan, Rod Latham, Onslow College’s most famous son (more so than Taika), Nathan Astle, Grant Elliott, Craig Cummings, Andre Adams, Alex Tait, Tama Canning, Ewen Chatfield. I could go on and on and on and on and on, but I’m going to go to bed.

    And in other news there seems to be some ambiguity in where the line is while on a staircase.

    1. Andre Adams could bowl a heavy ball.

      Anyone who ever bowled a heavy ball was immediately disqualified from the dibble-dobble stakes, by definition.

      Ponder on that when you wake up, Lbking.

    2. yeah, andre adams could be pretty quick at times. craig mcmillan? should get bonus points for bowling bouncers at 60mph

  7. The important thing is to realise that dibbly-dobbly is not one thing, it is two. It is dibble and it is dobble. In fact, it isn’t either of these, it just approximates them – hence the name. This is the key to its success.

    Batsmen feed on predictability. You can take the world’s best delivery – say a Shane Warne ripper, or a Waqar Younis in-swinging Yorker at 90mph – and render it completely harmless by having the bowler bowl it again and again and again, one after another. The reason these deliveries are so damaging is because they are unexpected. A batsman sees the ball on a line outside off stump, full of a length, and sets himself to drive through the covers. Then he hobbles off, slightly confused, having been given out lbw to a ball that broke his toes.

    As for dibbly-dobbly, nobody knows what is going to happen. Will it dibble, and if so how much will it dibble? Or will it dobble, and again by how much? Maybe it will start to dibble, and then dobble for a bit. Maybe it will look just like the previous ball, which dibbled tremendously, but in fact will neither dibble nor dobble.

    Top batsmen look for clues from the bowler – seam position, wrist angle, the set of the body in the delivery stride. But for this type of bowling there are no clues, because (and this is the absolutely essential part of dibbly-dobbly) even the bowler hasn’t got the first idea what’s going to happen. I’ll nip this one back at him, he thinks as he approaches, and then he takes the congratulations of his team mates as the batsman edges an out-swinger to second slip. What chance does the batsman have? And knowing this makes it even worse for him.

    After three overs it’s all done. The batsman has worked it out, and has relaxed as a consequence. He’s got used to the fact that he doesn’t have to select his shot as the ball leaves the bowlers hand – he can simply wait the few minutes it takes to reach him and play it from there. The fourth over will go for nineteen. A decent captain will then bring his opening bowler back on and reap the rewards.

    1. This was fun to read but I’m not sure about the veracity of the final paragraph. There are plenty of dibbly-dobblers who bowl(ed) long unbroken spells in ODIs; rather like spinners they eat up the overs before you know it. Part-time dobblers are often only employed in short confusing bursts but I wonder if that is to conflate “filth” with those exponents of high-class dobble. I don’t believe the kiwi modus operandi was two or three overs per dobbler, nor were later overs flayed with abandon once the batsmen had got their eye in.

      And I reckon even a part-timer having one of his rare days transcending filth, when the atmosphere or pitch or opposition or the toothlessness of the professional bowling attack have suddenly turned them into their captain’s most effective option, can end up bowling quite long unbroken dibbling spells. One for the stats nuts to check perhaps, but I seem to recall quite lengthy spells from Butcher and Gooch (best FC figures a smashing 7/14 btw).

  8. Is it bad that when I saw that Trevor Baylis had died I wondered if if meant England would get a decent coach again, before realizing it was the wind up radio guy?

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