November 15, 2015: An engineering student was sitting in the examination hall, writing the final exam for the semester in New Zealand. After completing the paper, he rushed to the airport to depart for Dubai where he was set to feature in the ICC World Cricket League Championship after being named in Hong Kong’s squad. The following day, he received his ODI cap and scored an unbeaten century on his debut against the United Arab Emirates. Five years later, the student, Mark Chapman, has put both of his cricket and engineering skills to use as he represents New Zealand in international cricket and owns a brand that makes protective cricket equipment.
On February 13, 2018, Chapman played his first T20I for New Zealand, which made him the sixth cricketer to play T20Is for two countries. 15 days later, he played his first ODI for New Zealand and became the tenth cricketer to play ODIs for two nations.
In an exclusive conversation with CricXtasy, Mark Chapman opens up about his journey from playing for Hong Kong to New Zealand, his engineering prowess, cricket in associate nations, and his aspirations.
Q. Did you always aspire to play for New Zealand after having played for Hong Kong?
My father is from New Zealand and worked as a civil servant in Hong Kong for many years. The location of my upbringing meant that playing opportunities presented themselves with Hong Kong, and it was an invaluable part of my cricketing journey. But ever since I was a young man I had ambitions to play for New Zealand, so that made the decision to pursue my dream an easy one.
Q. You have a century on ODI debut in 2015 for Hong Kong. What is the story of flying in from New Zealand after finishing your exams?
I completed my Engineering Degree at Auckland University alongside my cricketing commitments with Hong Kong. Balancing study and cricket opportunities was certainly challenging at times, and in this case, I finished my last exam for the semester in the afternoon and was on an overnight flight to Dubai that evening, only to arrive in Dubai the next day and receive my ODI cap. It’s a bit crazy to think about it now! But at the time I was just enjoying being finished with exams and having the opportunity to travel and play cricket.
Q. You’ve brought your engineering degree to use by starting a protective equipment brand. Tell us about that.
To put my Engineering degree to use I started a brand last year ESCU Sports. It’s a brand that designs modern protective cricket equipment. We launched our Wrist Guards last year which were extremely well received by players around the globe. We have had the likes of Steve Smith, Ross Taylor, David Warner, and Babar Azam adopt our product. It’s something that has helped me balance the external pressures and expectations that come with being a professional sportsman. While it is still involved with cricket, it’s something away from playing and training that helps me escape and shift my focus to.
Q. Even today, cricket isn’t as big a sport in associate nations. What prompted you for a career in cricket and when did you decide to pursue the sport as a career?
Yes, I definitely saw the challenges Associates face as a collective first hand, and for many, it is a constant struggle and balance between part-time work and cricket. I was fortunate that during my time with Hong Kong I was completing my University degree. Cricket was always something I wanted to pursue as a career, but looking back I was lucky in the timing of how things played out with my transition into professional cricket in New Zealand.
Q. You’ve featured for a Test-playing nation as well as an associate nation – How much of a gap is there between the two?
There are definite differences in the resources available between Test and associate nations. It’d be great to see cricket’s premier governing bodies get together and put a plan in place with a target to globalize the sport.