Every kid grows up with a dream, and while some kids strive to make it happen, there are very few who actually go on and realize it. One such kid is Mark Chapman, who, from representing Hong Kong, now finds himself living the dream - that of playing for New Zealand.
A flamboyant, attacking left-hander by nature, Mark Chapman was just 15 years old when he represented Hong Kong in the 2010 Under-19 World Cup - a tournament which included the likes of KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Josh Hazlewood, Jimmy Neesham, Joe Root, Jos Buttler and Babar Azam. In November 2015, at just 21 years of age, Chapman became the first-ever associate cricketer to smack a century on ODI debut, as he struck an unbeaten 124* against UAE to guide his team to victory.
In an exclusive interview with SportsCafe, Chapman says that he looked up to the likes of former Kiwi skippers Stephen Fleming and Daniel Vettori as his idols growing up, while also drawing inspiration from a certain classy and elegant left-handed batsman - Kumar Sangakkara.
“I used to love watching Stephen Fleming and Daniel Vettori as a young boy. I can't say that I modelled my technique around any one player, but I definitely took inspiration from the likes of Fleming and Kumar Sangakkara,” Chapman told SportsCafe.
Despite having born and grown up in Hong Kong, Chapman always realistically knew that he would be able to represent New Zealand someday, thanks to his Kiwi father, due to who he always held a New Zealand passport. Days after making his ODI debut for Hong Kong, the southpaw made his first-class debut for Auckland, and frankly, hasn’t looked back since.
“Yes, growing up in Hong Kong I always supported the Black Caps and I took every opportunity I could to watch them. As a young boy I dreamt one day that I would represent New Zealand,” he said.
Season after season, Chapman rose up the ranks in Domestic Cricket, and in no time, he found himself making his International debut for the Kiwis in the electric Trans-Tasman tri-series which saw England, Australia and New Zealand trade blows with each other in a highly intense tournament.
Speaking of the series, Chapman recollected his surreal experience of making his debut against two top sides, while also praising his teammates for helping him settle in and transition smoothly into the side.
“It was great to make my debut in a Tri-Series against England and Australia, two teams that you know you will be tested against and two teams that I've watched closely over the years.
The series was eventually won by the David Warner-led Australia, who also chased down the highest T20I target of all time against the Kiwis. Chapman, who made his debut for the Kiwis against England, ended the series with scores of 20, 16, 37* and 8, but more importantly, carried an invaluable experience along with him.
Chapman, despite having faced an array of hostile pace bowlers in the series - including Billy Stanlake, who infamously hit him on the helmet to dismiss him hit-wicket - has an interesting choice when it comes to the toughest bowler he’s faced in International Cricket.
“We have a lot of quality bowlers here in New Zealand, but to face different bowlers of international quality was a great experience.
“Adil Rashid comes to mind when I think of someone challenging to face, his many variations and accuracy proved to be a great test,” the youngster said of Rashid, despite having not gotten out to the leggie in his international career.
Having predominantly played white-ball cricket with Hong Kong, the left-hander is currently relishing the opportunity to play red-ball cricket with his side Auckland, and having accumulated 270 runs at an average of 54 in the 2018/19 season of the Plunket Shield, the 25-year-old has a bigger goal within his sights - to break into the New Zealand Test team.
“I've worked really hard on my red ball game the past couple of seasons, and it's been great to see some progress from the work I've put in. With Hong Kong it was predominantly short-form cricket, so the longer form is something I've had to learn on the go.
“Test Cricket and the Test Championship is definitely on my radar. The Black Caps test team is reasonably settled at the present, but I will be working and pushing to make sure I'm a strong candidate when an opportunity presents itself.”.
Despite all the highs and the glory, there is one thing that is bound to nag the mind of every single New Zealand player for the next four years - the World Cup final. Reflecting on the encounter, Chapman revealed that the scars were still fresh in the minds of the players.
However, he did admit that the scars would eventually heal with time while stating that all the players would look back and take pride in the way they performed for the country at the biggest stage the sport has to offer.
“I'd probably argue that the Black Caps played some of the most consistent cricket when it counted at the World Cup, and thoroughly deserved to be in the Final!
“I've spoken to a couple of the guys and obviously the emotions are still quite raw. Everyone processes things in their own time, and I'm sure as time goes by the guys will appreciate what a privilege it was to be part of such a spectacle.”
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