The Bridge Federation of India (BFI) is not surprised by the omission of 2018 Asian Games gold medal winners Pranab Bardhan and Shibnath Sarkar from the Arjuna awards list this year, saying they knew that the recognition will take time to come.Sarkar and Bardhan were nominated for Arjuna by the BFI but their names were not there in the list of 27 recommended to the Sports Ministry.The names picked for the national sports awards this time have raised a few eyebrows with officials and athletes wondering whether merit had been given due recognition. The likes of paddler Manika Batra, an Asian Games bronze medallist in the mixed team event and Commonwealth Games individual gold medallist, being recommended for the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award despite her winning the Arjuna Award in 2018 for the same performances, left many bemused.Manika's form has dipped since 2018 and she has now slipped to No. 63 in the world rankings. But asked if Bardhan and Sarkar got a raw deal, BFI general secretary Anand (KS) Samant told IANS: "There is a process where an athlete's performance is measured over a period of four years and not just one performance.
"Unfortunately, Bardhan and Sarkar have not won anything significant after the 2018 Asian Games gold and to be fair to them, this Covid-19 pandemic has also played a big part."Samant conceded that they wanted to start the process of nominating bridge players for national sports awards and somewhat knew in the back of their mind that it would be unrealistic to expect them winning an Arjuna this time around."We were not very hopeful. We needed to start the process. We will again apply next year for them. I am hopeful that till that time they will have played in more international tournaments and add weight to their nomination," the general secretary said. This was the first time that bridge players were nominated for national sports awards.The game was introduced in Asian Games in 2018 and the Kolkata-based players were hoping that their top-of-podium finish would help them bag the award.Bardhan and Sarkar won India's only gold medal, in the men's doubles category.Bridge has not been played at the Olympic or Commonwealth Games yet. The World Bridge Federation is recognised by the International Olympic Committee.