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Asian Games 2018: Shibhnath Dey Sarkar and Pranab Bardhan help India bridge the gap

Away from the hullabaloo of the main stadium, the Ball Room at the Jakarta Expo Centre is a picture of serenity, where the duo of Sarkar and Bardhan have been quietly going through their job, unnoticed.

asian games 2018 Updated: Sep 01, 2018 23:37 IST
Ajai Masand
Ajai Masand
Hindustan Times, Jakarta
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Gold medallist Pranab Bardhan and Shibhnath Sarkar pose with the Indian tricolour after winning in the bridge competition at the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta on Saturday.(PTI)

Pranab Bardhan and Shibhnath Dey Sarkar are as different as chalk and cheese — one is so quiet and gentle that he has to be coaxed to speak loudly, while Sarkar is animated, always ready with a reply. On Saturday, the duo whose combined age is 115 years — Bardhan is 60 and Sarkar 55 — clinched the second gold for India, in men’s pair bridge, helping the country surpass its best haul of 14 gold medals from the 2010 Asian Games at Guangzhou.

Away from the hullabaloo of the main stadium, the Ball Room at the Jakarta Expo Centre is a picture of serenity, where the two bridge exponents have been quietly going through their job, unnoticed. After winning gold, there was bound to be excitement and the duo who have been competing together for decades, are ready for the limelight. They defeated teams from China, Singapore and Indonesia for the gold.

“Bridge is in my family. My father and my elder brother have all played bridge and I started playing the game during my student life,” said Bardhan, the senior pro, who was in construction business but now leads a retired life, dedicating most of his time to the sport.

It was by chance that Bardhan met Sarkar and since then they have competed in many major international competitions, leading to the Asian Games triumph.

“During a competition in 2002, Sarkar was my competitor. Since then we have been partners,” says Bardhan, who stays in the vicinity of Jadavpur University in Kolkata. Coming from an archetypal Bengali family, he loves reading and most of the books are on bridge.

“When I started in 1975, there were no computers. Now, bridge is all about computers,” said Bardhan.

Sarkar teaches bridge at Jadavpur University and said the stigma attached to the sport is misplaced. “Today (Saturday), during competition the stress became unbearable and I developed 102 degree C fever,” said Sarkar.

For him the goal is to see the sport become a part of the curriculum in West Bengal. “In countries like Sweden, it’s part of the school curriculum because it is a very good mental sport, even better than chess. Slowly, mindsets are changing and I hope it will become part of the school curriculum in some Indian states in the years to come,” says Sarkar.

Gold medal in pocket, how do they plan to celebrate the success? “With rosogollas, of course!” signed off Bardhan.

First Published: Sep 01, 2018 19:47 IST