Cricket is crossing new frontiers every day and it was only a matter of time before it moved over entirely into the digital world.
With virtual reality becoming an extension of the real world, the immersive experience of truly online cricket has arrived.
Pakistan Super League side Islamabad United became the first cricket team to enter the metaverse with a built-to-scale virtual stadium.
The U-Meta Stadium is built on the open metaverse Decentraland. The digital world offers cricket fans a number of interactive experiences.
Supporters will get to interact with the avatars of their favourite players and explore areas inside the virtual stadium including the locker room, players' lounge and fans' conference room.
Not just that, visitors who complete certain challenges stand to earn official Islamabad United digital kits, club memorabilia, digital assets and offers from sponsors. Some rewards earned in the metaverse will be redeemable in the physical world as well.
And just to show how serious Islamabad United are about the new endeavour, the franchise unveiled their playing kit for the new PSL 2023 season in the metaverse.
“Islamabad United has always prided itself in introducing innovative and new concepts to cricket fans in Pakistan as well as globally,” Ali Naqvi, owner of the franchise, said in a statement.
“I’m really excited about providing an unprecedented fan experience in the metaverse through industry leaders like Decentraland and Vegas City. We are looking forward to providing fans with a more immersive experience with the game and its stars.”
Other sports entities have already entered the virtual world in a big way. The Australian Open became the first tennis Grand Slam to enter the metaverse, with its AO Art Ball NFTs – linked to live match data – giving fans a chance to own a piece of the tournament.
In football, Spain's La Liga has a major presence in the sphere, as does the NBA in basketball.
Islamabad United are the most successful franchise in PSL, having won the tournament twice.
The 2023 season begins in Multan on Monday with Multan Sultans taking on Lahore Qalandars.