Chapman on impressive NZ return: 'Nothing beats being out in the middle'

Having been on the sidelines, he finally got some game-time after seven months, scoring a 50-ball 63

Saurabh Somani
Mark Chapman swipes at the ball, 1st T20I, India vs New Zealand, Jaipur, November 17, 2021

Before Wednesday, Mark Chapman hadn't played a competitive game since April 1  •  Getty Images

Mark Chapman has had such a long break between playing competitive games of cricket, that he isn't quite sure when he was in the middle last. The cricket caravan might be hurtling along for viewers - and some players - from one bio-bubble to the next, but it's thanks to that packed schedule that Chapman got to play for New Zealand after a gap of seven and a half months.
For the record, Chapman last played a game on April 1 this year and didn't face a ball, or bowl one, in that game. After that appropriately April Fool's of a game from a personal point of view at least, Chapman was given the No.3 slot against India, in a T20I that began two days after New Zealand had suffered a draining defeat in the T20 World Cup final, and with several players sitting out.
Chapman had been part of that stirring campaign, but from the sidelines, with the XI tough to break into. The long layoff was spent training with the team as part of the squad, but it was only when he had spent some time in the middle that Chapman's fluency returned. From 20 off 24 balls at one point, he ended up with 63 off 50, setting New Zealand up for a good total.
"To be honest, it was just nice to be out there," Chapman said after the game. "Had a lot of training behind the scenes, but nothing beats the real thing of being out in the middle.
"In World Cups, you play your best XI and if we're going well, then more than likely you stick with your best team. So it just meant that I was on the sidelines for a bit. I did my best to support the guys in and around training.
"It's been well reported that this BlackCaps team is pretty competitive to get into, so whenever you get your opportunity you've just got to do what you can to contribute to the team."
Mark Chapman
"You find ways to add context to your training. Obviously, being in and around this environment, you try and train the best you can given the situation and make the most of the opportunities to train. There was a lot of training in the background. I felt prepared, but I guess match-preparation wise it wasn't ideal. But just happy to be out there."
New Zealand were taking the field against India on November 17, having lost the T20 World Cup final against Australia on November 14. While Chapman acknowledged there was some tiredness, he also pointed out how he and Todd Astle - who also didn't get a game during the World Cup - relished the chance to get a game.
"There was a natural feeling of a little bit of disappointment (at losing the final), but a lot of pride as well in the way we went about our business throughout the World Cup," Chapman said. "We stayed authentic to the way we wanted to play and you know, the guys are true professionals. These games have come around pretty quick, it's a three-match series in five days, and the guys are just doing what we do best and that's playing our cricket and enjoying it.
"The guys been a little bit tired, but we always play for New Zealand with pride. Particularly for myself and Todd, who have been on the sidelines, it was a really exciting moment to be playing."
Chapman put on 109 runs in 77 balls for the second wicket with top-scorer Martin Guptill, and said the senior pro helped him through his initial period.
"We were probably a bit slow in the powerplay but we rotated the strike pretty well through the middle and managed to accelerate after that 10-over mark," Chapman said. "Pretty happy to be batting with Gup and to put on, I think it was over 100 runs, so pretty happy with that partnership.
"It just took a little bit to get my rhythm going. But once I faced a few balls and managed to get the pace of the wicket sort of, things tend to come back pretty quickly. Guppy was keeping me pretty good company out in the middle and giving me advice and telling me to take my time, watch the ball. So it was just a matter of us doing what we've been training for and what we've prepared for."
And while one T20 World Cup is done, there is another one just 11 months away given the squeezed pandemic schedules, and Chapman made his case stronger with his showing.
"It's been well reported that this BlackCaps team is pretty competitive to get into, so whenever you get your opportunity you've just got to do what you can to contribute to the team," he said. "Thankfully I was able to contribute today."
If he continues to bat the way he did, Chapman may not need to struggle to remember when he last played.

Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo