Dinesh Karthik is one of the world’s most well-known cricketers and the Indian player is currently the vice captain of the Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League. A recent iconic moment in sporting history has been Karthik’s last ball six in the match between India and Bangladesh in 2018 which won India the Nidahas Trophy. That particular moment has now been captured in the form of India’s first ever sports NFT and it’s up for auction. Karthik spoke to us on Re:Set Dialogues about the future of NFTs in cricket, how he takes care of his mental health and his advice for young Indians.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Now, I’m curious. What does a NFT like this mean for cricket as a sport and how do you think it will shape the future of sports overall?
You’ve got to understand that in India 1.2 billion people have mobile phones, so they have access to various things digital these days and with the advent of streaming being not too expensive, I think people have chosen the option to stream a lot these days. So with that in mind, I do think the thing that is catching up in India is cryptocurrency and the blockchain technology behind it is pretty strong.
When you do buy art, the biggest issue over a period of time has been counterfeit or fake products that are sometimes available in the market. But when it comes to digital art, you cannot do it because of the blockchain technology that is riding behind it. So that and what you call provenance, the consistency in people buying it, is out there for people to see, and it’s pretty straightforward. That’s what really attracted me to it.
I think when you do have anything that is in the art space, you want it to be special and you want it to be unique. You want it to be something that people resonate with and the fact that we were able to combine all of these things and put it together in NFT — in what was a pretty iconic moment in my life and Indian cricket at that point of time — really attracted me towards it.
You’ve had an illustrious career which has been peppered with moments like these, but what was it about this particular moment that made you want to turn it into a NFT?
You know, one ball, five runs to win and to get a six isn’t something that’s been achieved by an Indian before and that’s something that was very special in my heart. It was a year-ending tournament with a bunch of youngsters and to out go there and finish the match in that fashion, when there was a lot of angst in the tournament at that point of time between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and big crowds had turned up.
The fact that we were able to withstand the pressure and go on to achieve what we achieved as a team and on a personal note to be there for the team was something that was really special in my life. The most important part of us bringing this NFT together was that people know I hit the shot, but what were the emotions behind it? What were the bowlers thinking? What was the crowd at that point of time feeling? To put all of this together was something unique. We were able to animate it and get the real emotions out with my voiceover. I really enjoyed the whole process of getting it across to people globally.
I always wonder how athletes such as yourself manage to stay calm in high pressure situations. So, how do you keep your cool and how do you look after your well-being and ensure you’re focused?
I think a rather clichéd word that is used a lot is process. I think when we do practice, we practice a lot to stay calm in those kinds of moments, we try our best at least. It’s not going to happen every time, but when it does happen, good things happen and you’re able to take your team across the line. That’s what we practice for every time we practice, every time we step on the field to practice, that’s what we’re trying to achieve: to try and ingrain a lot of what you play into your subconscious.
So when that happens, the ability to perform consistently increases. Then you slowly thrust pressure out of the brain and put all the good memories that you have in practice and try and bring it all together at the right point of time in sport.
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What lessons do you take from on-field moments like these and how do you apply to life off the pitch?
You’ve got to understand that every person in every walk of life will have some kind of issues, some kinds of pressures associated with them, be it anybody. So as a sportsman, when you do deal with these kinds of moments in a cricket ground, when you’re all alone and you’re thinking to yourself, these are the kinds of moments that will help you in your normal walk of life as well when you do come across moments where you’re tested, I think that your personality comes out and you’re hoping always that pressure brings out the best in you. The better the player you are, the better you are able to handle pressure and it’s the same in life as well.
And coming back to this NFT, how do you think NFTs can bridge the gap between cricketers and their fans, especially as you said, in a vast country, such as India?
There’s so many iconic moments that Indian cricket has gone through over a period of time, over a few decades, if I can say that. If people are able to put together what their thoughts were about at that point of time, the emotions attached to it and bring it together, then I think NFTs will be a very interesting space for the sports players and cricketers to explore.
“The most important thing is to seek out, reach for other people, ask for help.”
Art is typically perceived as for the privileged and that there are gatekeepers, do you think NFTs can make art and memorabilia more accessible for a larger audience?
Absolutely. Yeah, I think you have a very niche crowd for art, physical art, over a period of time around the world. But NFT is something that is, as I said before, it is digital. So every person who has a mobile phone has access to it. So if every common man in India has access to art, then it becomes as viable and as accessible as possible. And that’s what the NFT will do over a period of time: make it so every household could own a NFT.
Here at Re:Set, we cover young people primarily, and we do a lot of reporting around the challenges they face. You’ve talked about the importance of mental well-being, especially while you’re in a bubble during the pandemic. So, how do you take care of your mental health?
A lot of it stems from your personality trait, how you deal with it. Some people speak about it. Some people internalize it. Some people take external help. So I think you’ve gotta choose your own path there, but the most important thing is to seek out, reach for other people, ask for help if you require it. Don’t internalize it to an extent where you burst within yourself. Try and be brave enough to speak about the issues that you do have. And I think that’ll give you a lot more solace than keeping it all inside and making it harder everyday.
Our worlds and our daily lives have changed in the past year and a half and a lot of young people are facing the brunt of it. What message do you have for young Indians who are going through a hard time right now?
I always believe that perspective is very important in life. So what you feel is very, very important today, and what you feel is the be all and end all of it for the day. It might look rather trivial a few days later or a few months later, and it’s easier said than done, but at that point of time instead of taking a rather emotional and a radical decision, I think if we’re able to reach out and speak about it and see what’s required for you to get better during that course of time, that gives you the best chance of getting through most of the hurdles in your life.