June 26, 2017

'There's no better feeling than hitting a good on-drive'

Keaton Jennings on his debut Test hundred, growing up his father's son, and team-mates

Jennings gets some practice in to laugh off impending sledging about his South African roots © Getty Images

England take on South Africa next month. How bored will you be every time someone asks you about your South African roots?
(Laughs) I'm sure I'll get some abuse, but I've got to be hardened to it. The reality is, I was born and raised in South Africa and hopefully now I'll be playing against them. I know I am going to get talked about but I am who I am and that's the way it is. The fact is, I'm hugely honoured to represent England.

Describe the feeling of scoring a hundred on your Test debut.
Relief, absolute relief. There's happiness in there too, but I'd liken it most to a pressure release. It's like you've accomplished what you set out to do, what you've wanted to achieve since you were a kid.

So what is the secret to scoring a debut ton?
Luck! Everyone needs a bit of luck - and getting an opportunity. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes when it comes to scoring any runs.

What is it like to make your Test debut in India?
India is mad. It's like nowhere else I've played. You have thousands of people singing, dancing and screaming Kohli's name. Then they go back to the team hotel and wait hours to meet their heroes. Before the Test series there, we had one kid bowl to us in the nets, and he bowled exactly like Ashwin. He'd watched thousands of hours of footage to exactly replicate Ashwin's action. The passion and love is something really special.

You have played with Joe Root the batsman. What will it be like to play under Joe Root the captain?
Rooty is a fantastic bloke who brings a real vibe and aura. To play under that kind of character will be sensational. It's always great to watch him bat, too, hopefully from the other end.

Talk us through the moment you were first called up by England.
I was actually in Dubai when the phone rang and I got the call from James Whitaker. Before that, Andy Flower and I had gone for a beer where we'd discussed the success of a Lions tour and I thought I might be close. I tried to ring my dad after I got the call but he didn't answer! He was on a flight, so I was straight on the phone to my brother.

What is the best thing about having a dad who is a coach?
That you're exposed to the change-room environment - and what it takes to be a professional - from a young age.

And the worst?
I took a lot of abuse. It was the worst aged nine or ten when I was told that my dad was the only reason I'd got in the team. Then I got the "At least I'm the best player in my family" sledges after that.

It's tipping it down and you are off for rain. Which team-mate do you try to avoid?
Mark Wood. He has the boredom level of a three-year-old. He's always going round the changing room, cutting socks. He's cost me a couple of hundred quid before too, when he chipped my tooth after a deadly tackle and I ended up at the dentist.

You have the huge honour of playing under Paul Collingwood, who is still getting it done, aged 41. What is it like to play under someone old enough to be your dad?
Colly is amazing. He's forgotten more about cricket than most of us have ever learnt. The Evergreen is awesome and I hope he keeps on playing.

So what will you be doing at 41?
Hopefully still taking slip catches as well as he is! Although once I'm done with cricket, I want to go into business.

How many grips do you have on your bat?
One. There's a few different theories that go around. Gareth Breese at Durham used to have three on there - but one just seems to sit nicely in the hand.

What's your favourite shot?
The on-drive. I don't hit many, but when you do, there's no better feeling in cricket.

Durham generations: young'uns Mark Wood and Jennings flank senior statesman Paul Collingwood © Getty Images

Who is the toughest bowler you have ever faced?
There's been a few but for me it was Alfonso Thomas a few years ago. He was just such hard work to face at his best. Chris Rushworth is tricky too, and I always end up trying to avoid him in the nets.

Which of your team-mates is the best footballer?
Paul Collingwood. He may be old but he's a savvy player and he knows what he's doing.

And the worst?
I have to be up there! Bar me, it's got to be Barry McCarthy. He's like a traffic cone who doesn't move and just stands out on the wing.

Name one thing the average cricket fan doesn't know about you.
That I love food, absolutely love it. I eat a horrendous amount.

Which of your team-mates would you least like to have on a pub quiz team?
Ryan Pringle. After every workshop we do, Chris Rushworth does a quiz. Pringle doesn't come out of them that well, put it that way.

You are stuck on a desert island and you can only bring three items. What do you take?
I'm into my music so I'd take my iPod and a pair of speakers. And a hat, because I'm going to burn otherwise.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
Watch the ball because it's a tough game if you don't.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • sam on June 27, 2017, 5:20 GMT

    Looks a good player of both pace and spin with a fine temperament. However, at times he looked as if he was late on the ball when he was facing the quick stuff from Shami and Umesh. Needs to face his teammate Mark Wood more often in the nets.

  • Jose on June 27, 2017, 3:06 GMT

    He is a great kid. has tremendous future, I think.

    But, on the pleasure of an"on drive'.

    Nowadays almost all the batsmen can have those 'fun-drives' (on, off, square, or any other type of drive of their choice), since most pitches, on most grounds, in most cricket -playing countries are going through a metamorphosis into concrete super highways, where even driving a little old "Morris Minor" of the late 30's will give you the same pleasure as drivig the latest limo from RR!

  • Yogesh on June 26, 2017, 13:48 GMT

    Sounds like a kid who's mature for his age and has a good head on his shoulders. That hundred he scored on Test debut against India (the team I support) was excellent. Wish you a long, happy, productive career, laddie.

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