Alastair Cook’s resignation as England Test captain puts Joe Root centre stage as by far his most likely successor – but there will be no immediate confirmation of his appointment.
England and Wales Cricket Board director Andrew Strauss paid a rich tribute to Cook, the man who replaced him as captain in 2012 and has gone on to lead his country in a national record 59 Tests.
Cook informed ECB chairman Colin Graves and his team-mates of his decision to resign in a round of phone calls on Sunday evening, and Strauss has confirmed the intention is that a new leader will be known before England leave for their short one-day international tour of West Indies in two weeks’ time.
Cook received many plaudits after an up-and-down four-year tenure which included two Ashes series wins, a vexed whitewash defeat in Australia – leading to the departure of both coach Andy Flower and controversial batsman Kevin Pietersen – and notable successes in South Africa last winter and India on his maiden tour as permanent captain in 2012.
It has come to an end, however, after a 4-0 drubbing back in India before Christmas.
Cook took almost eight weeks to reflect before his resignation was announced, and Strauss was foremost among those voicing praise for his former team-mate.
“He’s led the team with drive, with determination, with a huge amount of passion,” Strauss said.
“You only have to speak to the people who have played under him to realise what an impact he’s had on them. He’s been a fantastic captain. Today’s really about celebrating what he’s done as England captain.”
At 32, England’s record runscorer has decided to concentrate his efforts exclusively on his batting once more.
Cook, who has hit 11,057 runs in his 140 Tests, said in an ECB statement: “It’s been a huge honour to be England captain and to lead the Test team over the past five years.
“Stepping down has been an incredibly hard decision, but I know this is the correct decision for me and at the right time for the team.
“It’s a sad day personally in many ways – but I want to thank everyone I’ve captained, all the coaches and support staff and, of course, the England supporters and the Barmy Army who follow us home and away and have given us unwavering support.
“Playing for England really is a privilege, and I hope to carry on as a Test player – making a full contribution and helping the next England captain and the team however I can.’’
The man he will almost certainly be helping is 26-year-old Root, pictured inset, England’s most reliable batsman across the formats and the current vice-captain.
Strauss is refusing to pre-empt that decision, though. “It would have been entirely wrong for me to have spoken to any other players about the England captaincy before Alastair decided to step down,” he said.
“Now’s the chance for me and the selectors and the England coach [Trevor Bayliss] to have conversations among ourselves and with some of the players within the England environment to get an understanding of who the right person is, what their philosophy is and how they intend to take the team forward.”
The time frame for that announcement is established, even though there is no pressing reason to rush before England’s next Test match against South Africa in July.
“We hope to be in a position to name the new Test captain before the team head off on the one-day tour to the West Indies on February 22,” said Strauss.
“That gives the new captain time to get used to the idea, have conversations about off-the-field stuff with coaches and support staff – so when he steps on to the field as England captain for the first time in July, a lot of that stuff has been taken care of already.”