Those watching the ongoing T20 World Cup should be well acquainted with ‘Crictos’, which has been constantly plugged on the official broadcast of matches during the month-long tournament.
If you are not then Crictos are digital collectible clips from International Cricket Council events and all match day ticket holders at the T20 World Cup received a complimentary pack.
Like many other sports recently, cricket has entered the contentious world of non-fungible tokens, commonly known as NFTs. It has led to skeptics of the digital asset, which has gained growing fascination globally, dubiously eye-rolling at the ICC’s venture leading to some mockery on social media.
“I’m not naive to say that there aren’t some bad actors in the crypto space,” ICC head of digital Finn Bradshaw told me. “The decision was made not to accept crypto payments on the platform, and I think that really helped. It’s attracted the right people because people are putting real world money in there.
“We’re not in for a quick buck.”
Perhaps predictably, it has been hard to grasp for cricket’s older demographics but even some of the younger fans doubling as autograph hunters have told me they still prefer old fashioned trading cards.
“The idea of owning something digital…I’d say there is a little bit of a generational thing there,” Bradshaw said. “There are people who see it as quite a foreign concept, but once you dig into it…this is provable and you can’t lie about them like trading cards.
“You don’t have to worry about…like I do with all the stuff I’ve collected that is just sitting in my mom’s garage. This is not getting moldy.”
While contemplating getting into this space, seeing the success of other sports leagues such as the NBA, Bradshaw remembered going to the 1992 World Cup in Australia as a youngster where he kept the match booklet and ticket as memorabilia.
He believed there was an a way for that type of nostalgia to be stoked for a newer generation with different tastes. “We wanted to do something relevant to a new generation, where physical things might not be as valuable to them,” Bradshaw said.
“The idea that you can go to a match and own a moment from it…you can keep it in your wallet and you can look back over it and get that nostalgia.
“We thought there was a way to evolve that second screen experience. I mean, fantasy (sports) is still huge. But we were interested in evolving the way people might be able to interact with players and moments.”
The idea of “digital permanence” appealed to Bradshaw and his team, who began seriously working on the concept over the last couple of years before it’s first true test at the T20 World Cup.
“We knew we had the (media) rights to do something like the NBA Top Shot,” Bradshaw said. “The success we’ve had so far we can trace back to taking our time and we were working for cricket fans. We wanted our NFTs to be accessible and to be part of the fan experience to complement the live sport alongside fantasy sports and merchandise and be a core part of the fandom.”
The digital world has opened up inventive ideas in sports such as Manchester City soccer club hoping to virtually recreate its 55,000-seat Etihad Stadium, which is something that perhaps one day could be replicated in the cricket sphere.
“The power of someone who now lives in the UAE
But, right now, cricket’s media strategists aren’t seeking to upend the traditionally conservative sport.
“We’re pretty comfortable with the mechanics of cricket. We think there’s enough interest and we don’t want to get in the way of that,” Bradshaw said. “But we’re focused on permanence and ensuring memories of cricket matches you’ve been to remain forever.”