Asiad success will popularise bridge among youth, says India coach

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Kolkata, Sep 1 (IANS) Bridge as a game will gain popularity among the youth of the country after the Bengal duo of Pranab Bardhan and Shibnath De Sarkar bagged gold in the men’s bridge pair competition at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, the teams non-playing captain and coach Debasish Ray said on Saturday.

“Dreams come true. I just cannot express the joy in words. We were waiting for the moment for many years. Their performance will motivate youngsters to involve with the game which is probably the most scientific mind game,” Ray told IANS over phone.

According to him, bridge is a “mind game” with a higher number of permutation and combinations compared to chess.

He, however, lamented that the game was never in the limelight as compared to cricket or chess as card games have a stigma of gambling.

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“Asian Games success has attracted media attention which I have never noticed earlier. I keep on getting phone calls from your fraternity after the news surfaced and it will bring awareness among youngsters. This success will change the mindset of the people,” said Ray, one of the selectors of the national team.

Bardhan’s daughter Pratirupa Bardhan was excited. “We knew that my father is one of the leading players as he had won various competitions earlier but this victory at such a big platform is very special,” she said.

She further said that the support and encouragement Bardhan received from his wife was immense as her mother had never complained about his events for which he travels a lot.

“This is a huge gift for me. I have been facing a lot of questions for supporting my husband. I didn’t allow him to miss any of his tournaments as I knew that such a golden day was in store for him,” said Bardhan’s wife.

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Former President Pranab Mukherjee too congratulated the team.

“Spectacular performance by the Indian Contingent on the last day of #AsianGames2018. A big congratulations to Amit Panghal for bringing home Gold in 49kg boxing as well as Pranab Bardhan and Shibhnath Sarkar for their Gold in Bridge Men’s Pair Event. Well Done,” the former President Pranab Mukherjee tweeted.

Speaking on their preparation running up to the Games, Ray said Bardhan (60) and De Sarkar (56) had spent over 10-12 hours a day on the online site and their combination was “excellent” as they know each other for about 20 years.

In fact, they won a tournament recently in Incheon, South Korea where countries from the Asia Pacific region competed.

India secured one gold and two bronze medals– men’s team and mixed team — in bridge from the 18th Asian Games where the game made its debut.

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Ray said the game with the average age of players at 52-53 years in India would provide job security to youth as the Railways, Income tax and Central Excise have been offering jobs to performers.

He is also of hopeful of getting attraction of Indian corporates for setting up incubation centres and requisite infrastructure to groom budding talents in the game.

“Some funds from the Indian corporate sector are being offered. There is a Corporate Bridge Association of India organising the game. I believe the Asian Games Success will help securing more corporate funds towards development of the game,” Ray said.

–IANS

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