New Zealand surprised every participating nation last year in the Azlan Shah Cup with a rare display that gave them the crown.
A solitary goal against Argentina in the final got them the coveted title. It was their first Azlan Shah triumph since they participated. and the Chronicler won’t hesitate to describe such is typical of New Zealand.
They get at the rivals, catch them unawares and offer no elbow to recover and recuperate. Any peep into their hockey history would vouch safe exactly that.
New Zealand was never billed in the top when 12 teams lined up for top honours in the 1976 Olympics, where synthetic turf was introduced.
Despite drawing first two matches, it won the last two matches which counted, the semifinal and final against Netherlands (2-1) and Australia (1-0), respectively.
That one goal of Tony Ineson may be bigger in proportion and heavier in merriment, compared to Andy Haywards’, whose lone strike ensured first ever Azlan Shah Cup for them last year, but times have changed.
New Zealand does not live on past; its one nation that strives hard to improvise things, and is getting reward on both men and women fronts.
However, Australian import Colin Batch, chief coach of The Kiwis, chose to bring a youthful outfit for this year. He perhaps had no choice as some key players had to be in Europe to fulfill their commitments. New Zealand team is led by experienced Dean Couzins.
"We are here with a relatively young and untested side with the matches against Malaysia the first we have played this year," said coach Colin Batch when met in Malacca.
"But do not write us off as I am impressed with the performance of the players. We are in a transition period, something that every team goes through post Olympics.
"There are some exciting youngsters in the squad that are out to prove their ability. And this bodes well for hockey in New Zealand.
Batch has taken the opportunity to give several up and coming players valuable experience ahead of key tournaments later this year.
"We are coming off an extremely positive training camp with a number of new players performing well who certainly deserve their place in the team," he said.
"The camp was a really encouraging gauge of where everyone is at and I am impressed with the quality of young talent we have coming through. Tournament experience is a crucial part of developing future success and Azlan Shah will be another step forward in that plan."
Cory Bennett and Nick Ross are set to make their Black Sticks debuts while Isaac Staples has been included after an impressive showing at the recent national training camp.
Ross continues a family tradition, with father Dave a former Black Stick and sister Courtney in the Junior Black Sticks wider squad.
Batch will look upon the likes of Andy Hayward, Stephen Jenness, Arun Panchia, Hugo Iglis to guide the youngsters.
Most of the Kiwi players turned out to be stars in India last month when they figured for the successful Ranchi Rhinos (gold) and Delhi Waverirders (silver) in the Hockey India League.
There is hope they will be so in Ipoh too.