Jennings: ‘I don’t think it will feel weird playing against South Africa’

"There will be all the chat again about my nationality"

“There will be all the chat again about my nationality”

Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo

England opener Keaton Jennings doesn’t believe “it will feel weird” if he is selected to play against South Africa in July next year.

Jennings, who was born in Johannesburg, is the son of former South Africa coach Ray Jennings and recently made his Test debut during England’s tour of India after being called up as a replacement for fellow opener Haseeb Hameed, who returned home to undergo surgery.

The 24-year-old added that he is prepared for the spotlight to be on him should he be selected for the series against the Proteas.

“I don’t think it will feel weird playing against South Africa, but I know that the intensity around that will be heightened,” Jennings, who played for Gauteng Province in 2011 and captained South Africa’s Under-19 side when they toured England that same year, told The Times. “There will be all the chat again about my nationality. And if I do play I will have to make sure I handle that and be calm, settled and focused.”

If he fails to retain his spot as an opener, Jennings insisted that he is more than happy to bat lower down the order as he wants to build on the strong start he has made to his Test career, which includes a superb 112 on debut and a fighting knock of 54 in the final Test against India in Chennai.

“I’d be happy to bat at No 10 and be a fielder,” Jennings said. “Just to have the opportunity to play test cricket, whether I’m playing in my preferred role or something slightly out of the norm.

“If the opportunity is there in July to bat at No 3 and that is what (England coach) Trevor Bayliss or Cook want me to do then I will bite their hand off.”

Jennings also revealed that he was slightly shocked by some of the reaction to his decision to represent England rather than the Proteas.

“I think social media gives people an opportunity to voice opinions that I don’t really want to read,” he said. “Social media is great but people voice their opinions in the wrong way sometimes. There was a backlash to my background but mostly I have had a lot of support.”

Despite what anyone says, Jennings has made it clear that he does not consider South Africa to be his home country any more since his mother is from Sunderland in the north east of England.

“South Africa isn’t home any more actually,” Jennings said. “My mum and dad said the other day about me ‘going back to the UK’ and I corrected them. ‘No. I am going home, that’s my home,’ I said.

“The northeast of England is where I have bought property and where my local pub is and I have my usual order in the local pub and I know my way around. When I come back to South Africa now, I drive round using GPS because I don’t know my way.”

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