Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
Mark Chapman was still an engineering student when he marked his ODI debut for Hong Kong with a match-winning hundred against UAE in Dubai in 2015. Nearly six years later, he is back in Dubai for his first World Cup with New Zealand. Along the way, he has completed his mechanical engineering degree and put it to good use, founding ESCU sports that manufactures cricket equipment.
This will be Chapman's third T20 World Cup overall, having turned out for Hong Kong in 2014 in Bangladesh and then in 2016 in India. Chapman was born in Hong Kong to a mother from mainland China and father from New Zealand.
"Yeah, it has been quite the journey to be honest," Chapman said during a virtual media interaction. "Having been born in Hong Kong and represented them, having been to Dubai for a couple of world events with the Hong Kong team it's been quite a journey. To be honest, I haven't thought too much about it. It's been really exciting to be with this New Zealand group in the last couple of years and it's my first world event with the New Zealand team and it's been something that I've been looking forward to a long time and just really stoked to be here and join the guys."
Chapman is fairly familiar with the UAE venues - he has played 25 matches across formats in the country, scoring 559 runs - but he is focusing more on adapting to the conditions that have changed since his last visit in 2018. Most recently the pitches have been relaid in Sharjah, where New Zealand are set to play two of their five league games.
"First and foremost the experiences will probably help me just with the general surroundings and knowing the venues, knowing the grounds and adjusting to the heat," Chapman said. "And as we've seen in the IPL, the pitches can vary from 120 scores to 230 I believe was scored last night. This is very much what you assess about what you face on any given day and just adjusting to that."
In 2018, Chapman travelled with the New Zealand A team as well as the senior team for six T20s against the Pakistanis in the UAE and he hopes to draw confidence from those experiences. Shane Bond, who was then the coach of the New Zealand A team, will also be part of the senior team's backroom at the forthcoming World Cup.
"Anytime you get to play and get experiences and again some of the players that you're going to face, it is valuable experience and I remember Shane Bond was the New Zealand A coach and he's coming back into that camp too. It will all feel a little bit familiar and [I'm] really looking forward to the challenge, particularly the first game with Pakistan. It should be a good game.
Chapman also said that robust New Zealand domestic and A team structure has prepared him to cope with the demands of international cricket.
"Back then [at Hong Kong] I was still a student and playing cricket as amateur," he said. "Having graduated from university and moving into New Zealand's domestic system, I was able to dedicate all my time to cricket. Things off the field really sort of started to ramp up with strength and conditioning, mental skills and all that sort of stuff that we probably didn't get much of in the Associate world. So, I think being in New Zealand domestic and the international environment has taken my game to another level. The intensity of international cricket is something that's quite different from Associate international cricket too."
Having previously been part of the Associate set-up, where usually every game has a lot at stake, Chapman is used to the pressure that a knockout game brings. New Zealand might face similar pressure in the T20 World Cup and Chapman is ready to embrace it.
"[In] Associate cricket, every game there seems to be something on it - whether it's funding or qualification for World Championships, World Cups," Chapman said. "Playing for New Zealand there is a lot of bilateral cricket which doesn't have as much context to it and I think that's where the World Test Championship was born from. So to come into a tournament environment where there's significant meaning in every game and context in every game is exciting. It puts more pressure on the line and hopefully we can get a few wins and qualify."
Around the time of his CPL stint with St Lucia franchise in 2018, Chapman had sustained a shoulder niggle which eventually turned into a serious injury, prompting surgery. The troublesome shoulder has limited Chapman's left-arm fingerspin in the past, but he now backs himself to do the job with the ball, too, if New Zealand need his secondary skill in the UAE.
"Injuries are part and parcel of sporting careers and I think it's fair to say I've had my fair share and a shoulder reconstruction is probably up there in the scheme of things… I'm not going to lie, that was a pretty tough journey, but I'm pretty happy with where things are with my shoulder now and obviously I've been working a lot of my bowling behind the scenes. So, we've seen that spin could play a role in these sort of conditions. I've just got to prepare as best as I can and if I'm called upon [to bowl], I've got to be ready."
Having finished his IPL duties with Sunrisers Hyderabad, Kane Williamson has now moved into the hotel room next to Chapman's. In a few weeks, Chapman could potentially be batting alongside the New Zealand captain at the World Cup where it all started for him six years ago.