The players for the 2012 Pairs Championship were announced yesterday and are as follows:
For Asegarce: Olaizola II-Beroiz, Arretxe II-Begino, Berasaluze VIII-Albisu, Bengoetxea VI-Apraiz
For Aspe: Martinez de Irujo-Barriola, Xala-Laskurain, Aritz Lasa-Zubieta, Titin III-Merino II
These combinations caused an instant reaction both from the press and from Sebastien Gonzalez, axed in place of Aritz Lasa, who makes his debut. Gonzalez is perhaps right to feel aggrieved; most assumed he was an automatic choice, and it is questionable as to whether Lasa has done enough to merit inclusion. Gonzalez is convinced that he has been excluded for ‘extra-sporting reasons’ and the mayor of his home town of Ascain has gone as far as to call for a boycott of matches in protest at a perceived anti-Iparralde bias. Irujo and Barriola are clearly Aspe’s trump card and there is little surprise over the formation of an all Riojan pair comprising Titin and Merino II, but elsewhere the debate continues. It was expected by most that Zubieta would partner his good friend Xala with whom he won the title in 2010 before injury ruled him out in 2011. However, Zubieta now finds himself with Lasa while Xala plays with Laskurain. Laskurain is in excellent form but his coupling with Xala, with whom he has rarely played of late, has raised eyebrows.
In the Asegarce camp, it is all about Olaizola II and Beroiz. Some may disagree with the splitting up of the defending champions Olaizola and Begino, but the empresa have clearly been grooming Beroiz to partner Olaizola and they have played well together ever since the young defender transferred from Aspe. Begino plays with another debutante in the form of Arretxe II. Asgegarce’s policy seems to be to spread their experience across all the pairs rather than concentrating it in two or three and while Arretxe must be delighted to have the rock that is Begino supporting him, one wonders whether it might have been more prudent to pair him with the likes of Bengoetxea, providing a realistic semi final option. Bengoetxea and Apraiz have the potential to beat anyone on their day, but Apraiz can lack consistency, a quality which is fundamental to a serious championship assault in the Pairs. Beraslauze has been paired with the third new player, Albisu, who is undoubtedly a great talent but who lacks a track record at this level. Asegarce must hope that when they throw their inexperienced charges into the fire, they thrive and do not burn.
The championship commences on Friday when Olaizola II and Beroiz play Berasaluze VIII and Albisu in Sestao. Asegarce lists the first rotations fixtures in full here: http://www.asegarce.com/taquilla.php. The final is scheduled for 29th April.