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Joe Root today stepped down as England captain after making what he describes as ‘the most challenging decision of my career.’
Root was adamant after England’s defeat in the Caribbean that he wanted to carry on in charge but with England having won only one of their last 17 Tests he has bowed to the inevitable and today offered his resignation to England.
‘After returning from the Caribbean and having time to reflect I have decided to step down as England captain,’ said Root in an ECB statement.
‘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 honour to have done the job and to have been the 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.
‘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 team-mates and coaches in whatever way I can.’
Joe Root has quit as England’s Test captain following a terrible run of results in recent months
Root, 31, was under intense pressure following England’s series defeat in the West Indies
Root bows out holding the record for the most number of matches and wins as England men’s captain.
His 27 victories put him ahead of Michael Vaughan, Sir Alastair Cook and Sir Andrew Strauss but he has also lost 26 Tests, more than anyone else.
Root’s 5,295 runs while leading the team is the most of any England captain and he scored 14 centuries and 26 half-centuries while in the post.
Now England have the considerable challenge of replacing him. Ben Stokes is the only viable candidate among the current team but there are strong reservations about giving him the job, particularly after he took a break from the game last year to protect his mental health.
Outside of the current squad candidates are few and far between but Sam Billings, James Vince and even Somerset’s Tom Abell may come into the frame.
There could also be a chance of Stuart Broad coming out of exile to become a short term option.
Ben Stokes (left) is the only viable candidate to replace Root in the current England team
Root can concentrate on his batting having found a rich vein of form for England of late
England’s torrid run
Since winning 2-0 in Sri Lanka at the beginning of last year, England’s form has dropped off a cliff.
Lost 3-1 away to India (four Test series)
Lost 1-0 at home to New Zealand (two Test series)
Trail India 2-1 in to be concluded home series
Lost 4-0 away to Australia (five Test series)
Lost 1-0 away to West Indies (three Test series)
ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said: ‘Joe has been an exceptional role model during his tenure, balancing the demands of Test captaincy whilst continuing to shine brilliantly through his own personal performances.
‘He has led by example, and that has resulted in more Test wins than any other England captain, alongside a number of famous series home and away victories.
‘Joe’s leadership qualities were exemplified by how he led the team through some of the most difficult and uncertain times we have known, playing during the pandemic all over the world, which speaks volumes for him as a leader and as a person.
‘I know that every single person who has played or worked under Joe’s captaincy will speak of his integrity and humility as a person, as much as his determination and example as a leader.
‘Off the field, Joe has been no different. It has been a privilege and a huge pleasure to have worked with him in his capacity as our Test Captain, and I know he’ll continue to drive English cricket forward as a senior player, offering his wealth of experience and advice to support his successor.’
The disappointing series defeat in West Indies followed hot on the heels of another Ashes debacle in Australia and home losses last year, all of which has seen England slump to the bottom of the World Test Championship standings.
England were outclassed by Australia during the Ashes series last winter, going down 4-0
Who will succeed Root? Latest odds
Ben Stokes 1/2
Stuart Broad 6/1
Jonny Bairstow 8/1
Sam Billings, Zak Crawley 9/1
Ben Foakes 11/1
Odds from Betfred via Oddschecker
Root was appointed as successor to Sir Alastair Cook in 2017, making early gains including an impressive 4-1 home series win over India in 2018.
A 3-1 away victory over South Africa in 2020 was another highlight, likewise a 2-0 victory in Sri Lanka early in 2021.
But since then England’s form has collapsed, placing heavy pressure on Root to step down.
A decision will need to be taken quickly on who replaces Root with England back in action at the beginning of June against New Zealand.
Writing on Twitter, former England captain Michael Vaughan said: ‘He gave it everything with very little support for the red ball team under his watch… then he had to deal with Covid times… he still is and will (be) the game’s best role model for many many years… now enjoy being the senior player for many more seasons.’
Stokes paid tribute to Root on Instagram.
‘Been a great ride with you my friend,’ he said. ‘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.’
Former England captain Michael Atherton told Sky Sports News: ‘I’m not surprised. It had got to a stage at the end of the Ashes, even before the West Indies tour, where it was pretty clear change was needed.
‘There comes a moment in every England captain’s life where you realise you’ve given it all and you can’t do anymore.
‘I think there was a particular moment in the Grenada Test where Ben Foakes was run out, the England team were sliding out and the cameras panned in on Joe Root on the England balcony with a look of despair and that realisation came to him he should really have stepped down at the end of the Ashes given how that Tour had gone.
‘They tried to insulate his captaincy by getting rid of the coach Chris Silverwood and managing director and leaving some senior players, but I think it was pretty evident Joe had come to the end of the road.’
Asked who might succeed Root, Atherton added: ‘There aren’t many. You’ve got to pick someone worth their place in the side. The days are long gone where you could have a Mike Brearley figure, someone who wouldn’t necessarily be the first choice.
‘Because of the scrutiny, you’ve got to be worth your place in the side. Ben Stokes is the obvious one, and what helps is that Joe Root has stepped down of his own accord.
‘Ben Stokes is very loyal to Joe and he will feel a lot easier about taking the job if offered given that Root stepped down of his own accord.’
Root pictured in the Long Room at Lord’s after being appointed captain back in 2017
Ex-England wicketkeeper Matt Prior congratulated Root for his success as skipper, adding: ‘Sometimes in sport, results and performances – good and bad – can get in the way of people’s judgement of the actual person.
‘[Root] is a great human being first and foremost, and I can’t imagine how hard a decision this has been for him.’
Yorkshire told Root he should be ‘very proud’. His club said: ‘An England and Yorkshire legend. Plenty more runs and wickets to come.’
England supporters’ club the Barmy Army urged Root to ‘become our best ever batter’, and commentator Charles Dagnall called his departure ‘inevitable after what happened this winter.’
Dagnall added: ‘The captaincy had no bearing on his form with the bat. He’s absolutely critical to England’s future success. Good luck to him and whoever takes over.’