You are nothing until you meet your match. Muhammad Ali would have been a great boxer and not ‘The Greatest’ were it not for Joe Frazier who made the heavyweight champion reach a new level inside the ring. Don Bradman would have been a statistical legend if it wasn’t for Douglas ‘Bodyline’ Jardine who made the Aussie cricketer lift his batting prowess to overcome a never-encountered-before cricketing challenge. Even Lord Rama of Ayodhya wouldn’t have earned his divinity were it not for Lord Ravana of Lanka putting up a great fight in the name of honour and justice.
To put it plainly, whatever credentials you may have, whatever be your reputation, you need a worthy opponent to bring out the best fighting skills in you. And if nothing else, we have seen plenty of — some would say, too many — instances during this year when two opponents sparred and raised their ‘game’ because of the contest. Indira Gandhi may have faced Jayaprakash Narayan during the Emergency years in the 70s, George W Bush may have encountered the entity called Osama bin Laden in the early 2000s, but at no point in recent memory has there been a slew of equal opponents — with you to choose which side you’re on — than those who battled in 2011.
And while we may close the chapter on 2011 with a thud a week from now, all the gladiatorial bouts mentioned below will continue into the new year. Here, we provide a view of the big bouts played across the year between worthies and how they are likely to pan out in the coming year. Some of them are ‘mere’ rivalries, some serious duels and a few serious brawls.