Asian Games gold medal winning pair of Shibnath Sarkar and Pranab Bardhan has been nominated by the Bridge Federation of India for the prestigious Arjuna Award. Bardhan and Sarkar won the gold in the bridge event at the Jakarta Asian Games with the former gaining the distinction of being oldest Asiad champion from India.
"By mistake, our names could not be nominated last year and this was a long wait for us. Hope we get this award this time which will give the sport an all new filip in the country," 62-year-old Bardhan told PTI from his Jadavpur residence here. The duo have been sent a form by the bridge body and were asked to submit it in a couple days to complete the formalities. The last date for sending nominations is June 3.
Bardhan and Sarkar have been practising bridge for more than two decades now as they first would meet regularly before the online platform "made their life easier. My whole life is devoted to this sport. People would first scoff at us for playing card games but the 2018 gold medal change all that," veteran Bardhan said.
"We have about a dozen people now working in Railways and the Income Tax department through sports quota. I hope the Arjuna Award will give a fresh impetus to our sport." The duo have earlier clinched a gold at the Asia-Pacific Championship in Seoul in 2016 but their best moment came only at the Asian Games two years later when they edged out China's Lixin Yang and Gang Chen, who finished with 378 points after five round of competition.
Pranab Bardhan and Shibnath Sarkar (Source: Times of India)
"Earlier, people related bridge to that of gambling and a recreational activity but it's not. There's so much of mental game involved here." Rating this nomination as one of the best moments of his career, Bardhan now wants to give back to the sport by coaching the upcoming generation. "We have a tremendous talent pool in bridge in India. We have proved that by winning one gold and two bronze at the sport's debut in Asian Games," Bardhan said.
He hoped by getting the Arjuna the West Bengal government will finally be get moved to allocate them a land for a proposed academy. "We have not yet got a clearance for an academy the application is pending since two years. I hope the government will approve." Sarkar too was elated by the development and echoed: "We just hope to get the recognition. We have worked hard for this moment for last 20 years. This has not happened overnight. Hope an Arjuna recognition will give our niche sport a fresh boost as there's a lot of talented untapped youngsters in India."