England opener Keaton Jennings says England is his real home and he relishes playing against his country of birth when the Proteas face England in July.
Jennings, who qualified for England through the old four-year residency rule, admitted he had been taken aback by some of the reaction to his choosing to represent England, and not the Proteas.
‘I think social media gives people an opportunity to voice opinions that I don’t really want to read,’ he said in a conversation with The Times.
‘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.’
Jennings protests that it is not South Africa which he considers his home but Durham.
‘South Africa isn’t home any more actually,’ said Jennings. ‘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”,’ he 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.’
The ex-SA U19 captain and son of former South Africa wicketkeeper Ray Jennings, added that should he be selected he is prepared for a lot of attention being focused on him and revealed that he is not fussed about the possibility of facing his fellow South Africans in the Test series starting in July.
Jennings will probably also face some old team-mates from the Gauteng side for whom he played in 2011 and in the same year skippered the South Africa Under-19 side on a tour of England.
‘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.’
Jennings, who is playing for his ‘home county’ as his mother hails from Sunderland in the north east of England, said he is prepared to drop down the order should his services not be required to open.
‘I’d be happy to bat at No 10 and be a fielder,’ said Jennings.
The 24-year-old will skipper the England second team squad, the Lions, on their tour of Sri Lanka next month.
‘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 Alistair Cook want me to do then I will bite their hand off.’
Barring a drop in form for his county Durham, he should be selected after making a century on his debut in the recent fourth Test against India and a half century in the fifth and final Test.
His performances were a rare highlight in the series which England lost 4-0 and cast doubt on whether his opening partner Alistair Cook will remain as captain.
‘I don’t think it will feel weird playing against South Africa, but I know that the intensity around that will be heightened,’ said Jennings.