Hong Kong cricket's Mark Chapman back and raring to go
Chapman, who has not held a bat for a year, is confident he can help squad succeed at the world qualifiers at the UAE in November
It has been two years since he last played for Hong Kong and a year since he last picked up a bat, but teenager Mark Chapman is raring to go again and is looking forward to striding out to the crease at the ICC World Twenty20 qualifiers in the United Arab Emirates in November.
"It's been a while since I played for Hong Kong, but hopefully I will win back my place in the team because I believe we have a very realistic chance of qualifying for the Twenty20 World Cup," said Chapman, 19, who is back for a short stay in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong head coach Charlie Burke has already pencilled in Chapman as a key member of his side. The top-order batsman was one of the most successful for Hong Kong at the ICC World Cricket League Division Two tournament (50 overs) two years ago in the UAE, and Burke believes he can provide the X factor needed to lift the team.
"It will be good to have Mark back in the team. We have a very good opportunity of playing in a World Cup for the first time and with the line-up we have, I think we can do it," said Burke.
The Hong Kong-born left-hander is based in New Zealand, where he went to school and now university - having just finished his first semester at Auckland University where he is doing a degree in engineering. Chapman is hopeful that this term, his examinations will end early so that he can join the Hong Kong team in Abu Dhabi by mid-November.
"My examinations are due to end on November 19, which might mean I could miss a couple of games. But there is a strong possibility that it could end a week earlier than scheduled which would be great," Chapman said.
The 16-team qualifying tournament for associate members which will decide six berths at next year's ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh begins on November 15.
"I have played very little Twenty20 with most of my cricket in New Zealand being either the two-day format or 50 overs. But I know I can adapt," said Chapman.
A year ago, Chapman tore the anterior cruciate ligaments in his left knee "in a freak accident" while playing rugby for his school, King's College. It resulted in a knee reconstruction, which put his sporting career on hold. He is glad to be back in action.
"I'm fit but the only problem is I lack match-fitness. But I don't think that is going to be an issue come November," he said.
Chapman had grappled with the idea of playing for New Zealand, but has now made himself available for Hong Kong. "I have not played any representative cricket for New Zealand and as such I'm available for Hong Kong. The only problem I can see in the near future is how I can fit in any cricketing commitments with my university studies over the next four years."
Apart from the ICC World Twenty20 qualifiers, Hong Kong will also play in the qualifying tournament for the ICC World Cup (50 overs) next January in New Zealand.
Hong Kong have been drawn with top seeds Ireland, Namibia, Canada, Uganda, United States, UAE and the winners of the European qualifiers in pool A at November's tournament. In the other pool are Afghanistan, the Netherlands, Scotland, Kenya, Bermuda, Nepal, Papua New Guinea and the runners-up from the European qualifiers.
"Our first target will be to finish in the top five in our pool and qualify for the play-offs," coach Burke said. "It will all be a matter of going out there and playing without fear and I believe with the top six batsmen we have, the best ever for Hong Kong I think, we stand a good chance of grabbing one of those six spots."
Irfan Ahmed and Waqas Barkat are Hong Kong's openers, followed by skipper Jamie Atkinson, Chapman, and then Nizakat Khan and Babar Hayat.
With Chapman also being a useful left-arm spinner and a top-quality fielder, his presence will boost Hong Kong's chances.