sport news Bookworm batter Keaton Jennings believes story of his England Test comeback ... trends now
The night before England's final Test in Pakistan, Keaton Jennings will swap his helmet and bat for a mortarboard and scroll.
'I'm missing my graduation so I have contacted the university to try and get a little cap and scroll sent out and to join the ceremony virtually,' the 30-year-old tells Sportsmail. 'So the night before the Test match, I will be sat in my hotel room, cap on, watching the event! That will be good craic.'
Jennings is graduating with a distinction from the University of Manchester after completing his two-year Master of Business Administration (MBA) course in the summer. It is his second degree after he got a 2:1 in Business Management from the Open University in 2020.
This winter, then, is the first time in a long time that he does not have to worry about hitting the books as well as hitting balls. But for Jennings, the reading never stops.
Keaton Jennings is missing his MBA business graduation to represent England in Pakistan
You'll laugh, but I've probably read just as many management books as I did while I was studying,' he smiles. 'I've got three books on the go at the moment. I'm reading Ed Smith's Making Decisions, Hitting Against the Spin by Ben Jones and Nathan Leamon, and I've got another one about negotiating skills.'
Negotiating is something Jennings already has experience of. Last year, he joined the management team of his county Lancashire in Dubai as they pitched to Emirates to renew their long-term sponsorship deal.
'It was a really cool experience and a completely different pressure to cricket,' he explains. 'In cricket, you know how to deal with things like nicking off. But when you sit in a business meeting, if you say something wrong that ticks somebody off, there's a 10-year agreement sitting on the table that could go belly up.'
Jennings is even now considering enrolling on the Leadership in Sport master's course run by former England national selector Smith, with the aim of one day becoming a chief executive in cricket or another sports organisation. But aside from his long-term ambitions, he believes his studies have also helped his cricket.
'Previously, when I looked at my own game, I was quite sensitive with how I took information and criticism,' he says. 'With the MBA, you have to be critical of situations, and that has given me a little bit of perspective and an ability to be critical of my cricket and myself.
'I'm now quite content with going about continuing to improve. I'll throw a little MBA term in – I have a Kaizen approach to my cricket.'
Jennings was top run-scorer in Division One for Lancashire this year, earning an England recall
The Kaizen approach is the method of continuous improvement and it is not just the mental side of his game that he has worked on since he played the last of his 17 England Tests in 2019.
'The big thing I have changed is the position of my hands,' he reveals. 'I watched footage of guys like Matty Hayden. His hands were down on the floor. So I put my bat down and started grooming that for the last two seasons.'
It certainly seems to have worked as Jennings was this year's top run-scorer in Division One of the County Championship, racking up 1,233 runs at an average of 72.52, including five centuries. The left-handed opener's prolific summer made his case for an England recall impossible to ignore, even though he was not sure it would ever come.
'At some point during the last three years, you make peace with not playing for England again,' admits Jennings, who was selected for a series in Sri Lanka in March 2020 but it was abandoned because of the Covid pandemic.
'I always felt I was young enough to have the opportunity again, but it wasn't a situation