The Indian men’s Bridge team recently made history by securing a silver medal at the Hangzhou Asian Games 2022, contributing to India’s 100-plus medal tally.
The team in the final consisted of Sandeep Thakral, Jaggy Shivdasani, Raju Tolani and Ajay Prabhakar Khare with Shivdasani being India’s eldest medalist at the tournament aged 65. In an interview with The Week, Shivdasani talked about the sport and how it can be popularized in India.
On beating China in the semi-finals, Shivdasani said that the team was pumped up. Unlike India, China has one of the strongest Bridge teams in Asia, getting immense support from the government. The match was tough, he said. As reported previously, India had a slow start, but managed to find their footing to beat the host nation.
After losing to Hong Kong in the finals, he said that the opponent simply performed way better. The team wanted to get the gold medal, but unfortunately were not able to. He put light on the fact that all the players in the Indian Bridge team have a day job and while they are very good players, they are not professionals.
The length of the tournament did tire out the entire team mentally and physically, given that the players are also not in their prime. However, Shivdasani said they are glad to be able to contribute India’s unprecedented 100+ medal tally.
The 65-year-old also revealed that the average age of Chinese players at the Games was 40 years, while the Indian team’s was close to 60. He hopes that this win will attract more young players to the game in India.
When it comes to popularizing the game government support is also required. While some players have started emerging in recent days, it is far from the number of players Europe and US have.
Meanwhile, the team was advised to stay away from social media due to the nature of the game. In India, card games are often construed as gambling and people might criticize the sport. This could affect the mentality of the players and affect their performance, he enlightened.
Shivdasan explained that Bridge is not just about luck. In fact, he believes that there is the same amount of luck in the game as there is in tennis.
He stated that the overall experience was memorable for the team. The entire city of Hangzhou was fabulous. People were asking for selfies and photographs and everyone was nice and polite, treating each other with respect.
The matches were also fair with the teams showing mutual respect. The Chinese team congratulated the Indians after their defeat in the semis and said that the latter played well and deserved the win.
Shivdasani also met javelin gold medalist Neeraj Chopra, and former long jumper and vice president of the Athletics Federation of India, Anju Bobby George. Other Indian athletes were shocked to know that the men’s Bridge team players were athletes just like them and not coaches with the age difference leading to the assumption.
The game is already making a name for itself in recent years, however, being physically fit is also quite important as after five or six days players can get fatigued, according to Shivdasani. This is why there is a need to have younger players in the game.