The Black Sticks men will come up against former coach Colin Batch when they face defending champions Australia in their first match at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup tournament in Malaysia.
Batch ended his tenure as New Zealand coach in December, crossing the Tasman to take charge of the world No.2 ranked Kookaburras.
They will be favoured to beat the eighth-ranked Black Sticks when the annual six-nation tournament begins in Ipoh on Saturday.
The last six titles have been shared by the trans-Tasman rivals, with New Zealand winning in 2012 and 2015.
The Black Sticks were third last year, beating Malaysia in a shootout, as Australia went on to snare a ninth title.
New Kiwi coach Darren Smith has named a relatively inexperienced squad, with several key players missing through injury or unavailability because of European club commitments.
Arun Panchia assumes the captaincy from the injured Simon Child and expects his team will benefit from two warm-up games against Malaysia.
They lost the first 8-2 and drew the second 3-3, giving them a taste of the heat and humidity on offer.
Panchia says conserving energy will be important and was a method they had successfully employed previously at the tournament.
“Traditionally the team has done well here,” he said.
“And a lot of the guys have played junior tournaments in Malaysia so we know how to play in the heat and we’re a fit side well accustomed to the heat.”
Defender/midfielder Panchia, aged 27 and with over 200 international caps to his name, is comfortably the most experienced player in the squad.
He made his captaincy debut in the 2-1 home series loss to Pakistan this month.
The other games on Saturday pit Great Britain against India and Malaysia against Japan.
– Courtesy of NZCity