Krishnan believes one thing ties them all: A high IQ level. “It demands high levels of concentration and analytical skills. In India, there isn’t a lack of intellect so this game suits us in that sense,” he said.
The challenge, Goel said, is to make it accessible to the youth. Like Padhye, Goel, an industrialist, insisted that bridge is a thinking man’s game that is more about mental stimulation, rather than gambling.
“It’s important to realise this so that we can make this sport appealing for the younger generation and take it to schools. A lot of other countries are excelling because they have bridge in their school programmes. Unless we bring younger people to the sport, it won’t flourish as much as it should,” he said. “I hope our silver medal will bring about that change.”
Bridge made its debut at the 2018 Asian Games and India won three medals — gold in men’s pair, bronze in men’s team and bronze in mixed team.
Padhye, who has partnered Mehta in the past, hoped their silver medal will prove to be a catalyst for change, and attract younger players to the sport. “There’s a stigma attached to the sport, unfortunately, and many people mistake it for gambling,” he said.
Padhye, who runs a printing business, recalled how his grandmother “got restless if she did not play a couple of deals every evening”.
In the final, India took on Poland, which had five former world champions in its team. The European giants proved too strong, recording a 45-point win over six sets and 96 deals.
Despite the loss in the final, the bridge community has hailed their performance as path-breaking. Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, whose father-in-law Anand Mehta was a bridge player himself, led the accolades, tweeting that “age isn’t a barrier to be the best in the world”.