CHENNAI: The Bridge Federation of India (BFI) has nominated Pranab Bardhan and Shibnath Sarkar for this year’s Arjuna award. The 2018 Asian Games gold medal winners are the first bridge players to be recommended for this. Bridge did not feature on the list of disciplines eligible for this award earlier.
“The BFI has forwarded these two names to the sports ministry for the Arjuna award. There are certain rules and conditions. It has to be a priority sport. It has to be part of a major event like the Olympic, Asian or Commonwealth Games. That’s why bridge was not eligible in the past,” said BFI secretary Anand (KS) Samant.
“Now that it has become part of the Asian Games and Bardhan and Sarkar won the gold medal, we have sent their names. Due to the Covid-19 situation, we faced some problems, but eventually, we processed their applications and forwarded them (to the ministry) online,” added the official.
Bridge was played as a medal event for the first time at the 2018 Asian Games held in Indonesia. Bardhan and Sarkar won India’s only gold medal, in the men’s doubles category. Indians also won two bronze medals. The card game has not been played at the Olympic or Commonwealth Games yet, although the World Bridge Federation is recognized by the International Olympic Committee.
The lockdown has not affected Sarkar and Bardhan majorly. Bridge can be played online and the seasoned duo is busy playing tournaments. Even though all official events under the banner of BFI or state associations scheduled for 2020 have been called off, players are organizing their own competition called Bridge From Home. This unofficial event is getting good response too.
“About 400 players are taking part. There are invitational events also, for select players with a smaller field. The lockdown has actually helped online bridge become more popular. Players are getting accustomed to this and using the time to brush up their knowledge of the game. In the last two years, the number of serious bridge players in India has increased,” said Sarkar.
Bardhan, who also feels bridge diehards have found this forced break useful in terms of getting better at the game, says those dependent on it have suffered. “There are people who teach bridge or rely on tournament prize money for at least a part of their earnings. The lockdown has not been great for them. As far as I am concerned, I am devoting almost all my time to bridge,” said Bardhan.