Joe Root has stepped down as England Test captain after accepting that five years in the job – and a recent 12-month period of flatlining results and off-field change – had come at a personal cost.
The 31-year-old ended last month’s 1-0 defeat by West Indies insisting he was “passionate” about remaining in charge despite the winter’s failed Ashes campaign, one win in his last 17 Tests and a record fifth series without victory.
But a period of reflection back at home has seen Root change his mind, adding the role of men’s Test captain to the list of vacancies at the England and Wales Cricket Board along with chair, director of men’s cricket and men’s head coach.
Root said: “After returning from the Caribbean tour and having time to reflect, I have decided to step down as England men’s Test captain. It has been the most challenging decision I have had to make in my career but having discussed this with my family and those closest to me; I know the timing is right.
“I am immensely proud to have captained my country and will look back on the past five years with enormous pride. It has been an honor to have done the job and to have been a custodian of what is the pinnacle of English cricket. I have loved leading my country, but recently it’s hit home how much of a toll it has taken on me and the impact it has had on me away from the game. “
Victory over India at Headingley last summer was Root’s 27th as England Test captain, breaking the record previously held by Michael Vaughan, but change has felt inevitable ever since a 10-wicket defeat by West Indies in Grenada.
Root’s resignation means the incoming director of men’s cricket – a recruitment process for which is currently under way – has dodged a tricky first decision upon taking over. Rob Key, considered the frontrunner for the role, was hugely critical of Root’s captaincy after the Ashes in his role di lui as a Sky pundit.
Ben Stokes, the current vice-captain, appears the likeliest candidate in a thin field and led the side for a home Test in 2020 when Root was on paternity leave. It would be a huge challenge, however, both as an all-format all-rounder and a player who last summer took time out for mental health reasons.
Writing on Instagram, Stokes said: “Been a great ride with you my friend. Watching one of my great mates lead us all out on to the field was a privilege. You have given everything to English cricket and we all want to say thank you for your sacrifices and hard work. “
Root’s decision means his dream of leading England to an Ashes victory is over, having overseen 4-0 defeats away from home in 2017-18 and this winter, as well as the 2-2 draw at home. His 64 Tests in charge – another record – were not without highlights, however, with two away wins in Sri Lanka, one in South Africa, and a strong home record until the visits of New Zealand and India last year.
His statement, issued by the ECB on Good Friday, continued: “I want to take this opportunity to thank my family, Carrie, Alfred and Bella, who have lived it all with me and been incredible pillars of love and support throughout. All of the players, coaches and support staff that have helped me during my tenure. It has been a great privilege to have been with them on this journey.
“I would also like to thank all the England supporters for their unwavering support. We are lucky to have the best fans in the world, and wherever we play, that positivity is something we always cherish and admire, which is a huge drive for all of us out there.
“I am excited to continue representing the Three Lions and producing performances that will enable the team to succeed. I look forward to helping the next captain, my teammates and coaches in whatever way I can. “