Keaton Jennings was born and bred in South Africa and captained the Proteas U-19s but insisted Tuesday ahead of his expected England debut that he feels “very English”.
The 24-year-old opener is tipped to make his international bow for his adopted country in England’s do-or-die fourth Test against India, which starts in Mumbai on Thursday.
The tall left-hander was a late call-up for England’s two remaining must-win matches after Haseeb Hameed injured his hand during the third Test and was ruled out of the rest of the series.
Jennings said joining up with his new teammates had been “surreal” but that he would relish the opportunity to open the batting with captain Alastair Cook this week if picked.
“At the moment I’m feeling very comfortable and very English, despite my accent,” he joked to reporters.
Jennings, whose mother is English, was born in Johannesburg and went on to captain South Africa at age-group level.
But after leaving school he moved to England in 2011, committing himself to four years there so he could become eligible to play for England.
“The opportunity, the professionalism, I don’t know if I can put my exact finger on it but there was a combination of feeling really welcome, feeling loved, feeling pushed as well,” he said of his decision to make himself available for England instead of South Africa.
His impressive scoring for Durham captured the attention of England’s selectors and Jennings, who owns a house in the northeast English town, says he feels very much settled in his new life.
“I suppose the more time you spend in the country the more you feel local. I’m blessed that they’ve welcomed me with open arms,” he said.
England trail 2-0 in the five-match series and anything less than a victory would see India seal the rubber. Jennings, however, welcomes the pressure.
“I have always been taught that pressure is a privilege. It’s the sort of a thing my dad tried to infuse into me as a kid,” said Jennings, whose father Ray played for South Africa during isolation.
“I like to think that I bring positive energy and a smile to the group. I am generally quite a happy guy. We’re 2-0 down and it’s a tough position. Hopefully we can throw a few jibes and throw some punches back,” he added.