Keaton Jennings affected by barbs over South African background
England batsman Keaton Jennings admits the social media barbs relating to his South African background had an impact on him, but he insists he is no cricket mercenary and that the United Kingdom is his home.
Jennings was born and raised in South Africa and captained the under-19 team, but became eligible to represent England earlier this year after committing himself to serving a four-year residency period.
He was called up midway through the recently-concluded tour of India – after a breakthrough domestic season with Durham – and impressed with a century in his maiden Test innings in Mumbai followed by a battling fifty in Chennai.
Having enhanced his international credentials, despite England’s 4-0 thrashing in the subcontinent, the 24-year-old is eager to put to bed any doubts over where his allegiances lie.
Jennings, the son of former South Africa coach Ray, told the Times: “South Africa isn’t my home any more actually. 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 north-east of England is where I have bought property and where my local pub is. When I come back to South Africa now, I drive round using GPS because I don’t know my way.
“I would have been naive if I didn’t expect (his South African background) to be commented on, but I didn’t expect the huge quantity of the backlash. I can’t pretend it didn’t bother me a bit.
“Social media is great but people voice their opinions in the wrong way sometimes. There was backlash to my background but mostly I’ve had a lot of support.”
Jennings’ performances in India will almost certainly see the left-hander retain his place for England’s next Test assignment – against his homeland.
The Proteas visit England for a four-Test series, which gets under way at Lord’s in July, and while Jennings acknowledges his background will be scrutinised once again, he believes it will have little influence on him.
He added: “I don’t think it will feel weird playing against South Africa, but I know that the intensity around that will be heightened.
“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.”