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Shibnath De Sarkar and Pranab Bardhan hope bridge gold at Asian Games will help change perceptions

Perseverance fetched Pranab Bardhan and Shibnath De Sarkar the men’s pair Asian Games gold, one which helped India equal its best-ever gold haul.

other sports Updated: Sep 05, 2018 13:12 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Shibnath De Sarkar,Pranab Bardhan,Asian Games 2018
(L - R) Debabrata Majumder (Bronze), Shibnath De Sarkar & Pranab Bardhan (Pairs Gold) and Sumit Mukherjee (Bronze) - the Indian contingent of Bridge that picked up Gold and Bronze in the Jakarta Asian Games were present in a felicitation event at Calcutta Sports Journalist Club on Monday, September 03, 2018. (Samir Jana / Hindustan Times)

For decades they beavered at their passion, ignoring snide asides from people such as an official of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) who remarked days before the Asian Games that you build a bridge and not play it.

That perseverance fetched Pranab Bardhan and Shibnath De Sarkar the men’s pair Asian Games gold, one which helped India equal its best-ever gold haul. An Asian Games gold can be a life-changing moment; politicians rushing to offer hepathlete Swapna Burman financial incentives being just a case in point. Bardhan and De Sarkar want none of that. Instead, all they are seeking is that contract bridge gets the respect it deserves. And they are confident it will happen now.

“The Asian Games is such a big platform. We are sure this gold medal breaks taboos,” said De Sarkar, 56, who would go to Jadavpur University (JU) and convince undergraduates to play. When, after six years, JU didn’t allow that anymore, De Sarkar would gather those with a more than a yen for the sport on the stairs of an auditorium in central Kolkata and coach.

“We are confident that now people will realise that bridge requires a logical mind, dedication and intelligence,” said Bardhan, adding that he was taught the intricacies of the sport by a former physics professor at JU, the late Samir Mondal.

Along with Debabrata Majumder and Sumit Mukherjee, winners of the team bronze in Jakarta, and Debasish Roy, India’s non-playing captain at the Games, they shared stories of their journey with the media at the Calcutta Sports Journalists’ Club here on Monday.

ALSO READ: Asian Games 2018: India match best-ever gold tally

De Sarkar’s anecdotes included being blessed by PT Usha. “She was in the same floor (at the Games Village) and on the final day, I asked to be photographed with her. She agreed. Then, I sought her blessings as few know what it takes to win Asian Games medals like her,” he said. After they had finished --- the duo played 99 boards (games) in the qualifiers, 69 in the next round and 55 in the finals --- guess what De Sarkar and Bardhan did? They bought umbrellas.

“We just needed to get out of the place and buying umbrellas was the first thing that came to our mind because we knew where they were being sold. There is a 30-minute window after the games to scrutinise results and we just didn’t want to be there while that was going on,” said De Sarkar who finetunes bidding strategies online with Bardhan daily for at least two hours.

Clearance for Jakarta came so late, said Roy, that the contingent couldn’t get India blazers and still don’t to know how to get around that problem ahead of felicitations in New Delhi including one by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Should that change, De Sarkar and Bardhan’s effort would be worth its weight in gold. Maybe it will also be a step in getting India to realise that there is much more to the late Oindrilla Kundu and Anand Mehta than being a famous actor’s sibling and a famous cricketer’s father-in-law.

First Published: Sep 03, 2018 22:27 IST