Cricket’s next multi-billion dollar evolution

Sometime in late March 2021, Jack Dorsey’s first ever tweet, dating back to 2006, was sold for about Rs 20 crore. In April, a joke photo of ‘ Disaster Girl’ was sold for Rs 3.5 crore. There were trailblazing deals of digital memorabilia being reported across the world. They were being sold as Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT).

And in the world of cricket, there was a recent news item that there is a NFT platform for cricket being launched. So we thought we would dig a little deeper and spoke to Atul Srivastava, Founder of Smart Cricket and Pruthvi Rao, CEO of Zebi. The vision that comes across is that this is probably the biggest thing to happen to cricket, perhaps as big as, if not bigger than T20.

Let us look back at history a little. Don Bradman first started signing autographs for his fans, and someone realized that they were being sold to others for top dollar. His agent immediately realised that there is a lot of value in ‘intangibles’, not only as collectors’ items, but also as investment destinations. Ever since collectors and investors alike have made collections of a varied set of memorabilia that have appreciated in value over the decades. This ranged from ticket stubs to magazines, to autographs.

But there was one catch. After the 90s, when digital media became the medium of choice, nobody could collect the iconic moments on that media. How do you collect an iconic tweet? A digital magazine? A digital ticket? This was not possible for a long time. We understood that today, technology is good for making copies, an infinite number of copies at almost zero cost. And it is almost impossible to know one from the other. But it is this very same technology that has made it difficult to limit this copying and distribution. And given that value is defined by scarcity, which means, they all have zero value.

Now, history is being remade. Non Fungible Tokens are digital tokens, a new technology that represent unique digital assets. Each NFT is unique and is a collictable that cannot be replicated or copied, making them rare by design. And because of this, for the first time, these digital items can be bought, sold, and collected. And it is significantly better than what was there before. You can make collections, investment portfolios, virtual showcases and museums, and these are just the start.

For the first time, digital media will go from a distribution-consumption based economy to a sale-purchase economy. You can not only view media, but you can own media collectibles. The key thing being ownership. For instance, you can see the Mona Lisa, and you can download copies of it on your phone, but you cannot own it. Only one person can own it, meaning only one person can trade it. Much like your house – just because many people can come to your house or see it from outside, the ownership and the financial benefit of buying or selling it, resides with only one person.

This opens up a global audience to the value of sitting locked up in a safe somewhere. Imagine your match-winning shot being bought by someone in Japan, and a few moments later, being traded with someone in Dubai. You can now list your digital collectibles on this platform, for anyone to come and buy. Extra money, with no extra effort. The true unlocking of value that technology had created, but the same technology had prevented from being monetized.

Being digital has several advantages. Now, these can be collected on your mobile phone – Anywhere, anytime. This means that they can also be traded 24×7. And issues can clearly control how many limited editions exist. And most of all, there are Zero fakes! All of this is what makes it fundamentally revolutionary.

‘The opportunity is not just collectibles’

When we spoke to Pruthvi Rao, founder of Zebi, it was clear to me that this was only a fraction of the value that blockchain brings to the world of Cricket. Zebi, which was India’s first Blockchain Company, has been building a blockchain for India since 2016 and is now working with Smart Cricket Global Ltd in the cricket ecosystem to launch this a few weeks from now.

Their famous land record project won the Digital India Gold Award in 2019. Zebi worked with Smart Cricket way back in 2018 to launch what was India’s first NFTs in the middle of 2018. At that point, it was way ahead of its time. But the time seems to be ripe now.

“The opportunity is not just collectibles. It’s just that collectibles have become a buzz and mainstream today”, said Pruthvi. “Blockchain is doing to the world today what the internet was supposed to do 25 years ago. Eventually, everything that exists in the internet today will move to blockchain based ecosystems, in one form or the other”.

In fact, we learnt that in 2018, all Pro Kabaddi League playoff tickets were issued as NFTs. I am sure that offerings like these will also become mainstream one day.

“We have been aggressive on being on the upside of the technology curve when it comes to cricket by being the first in the world to use motion-sensing for making smart bats and other cricket equipment smart. Similarly, the way this space has exploded, now is the right time to be a part of this evolution that is just starting” said Atul, the Founder of Smart Cricket. “You can literally think of anything that is digital – gaming, merchandising, licensing, e-sports, etc, will all be within the blockchain ecosystem. This is what makes it a multi-billion dollar evolution,” he adds.

With newer and newer technologies, the world has much to show us new opportunities, and today, Blockchain is the next big revolution. It is a reality. Some of us will be in denial for a long time, like some banks who took a decade to computerize their records and systems. Those that adopt these new technologies will thrive and flourish. The same is true for the world of cricket.

We are looking forward to how this will develop and would encourage the cricket fraternity to move fast and be the pioneers in the space. And being a collector ourselves and an avid adopter of new technology, we are eager to leverage this to build my own portfolio of collectibles – in this new age.

India Today

India Today is a weekly Indian English-language news magazine published by Living Media India Limited. It is the most widely circulated magazine in India, with a readership of close to 8 million. In 2014, India Today launched a new online opinion-orientated site called the DailyO.

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