Joe Root makes ‘most challenging’ decision to step down as England captain

Joe Root Ben Stokes

Joe Root has described his decision to step down as England’s Test captain as his “most challenging” but conceded it recently hit home how much of a toll the role had taken on him.

The 31-year-old resigns with a number of favourable records, but a disastrous 12 months of red-ball cricket essentially made his position untenable.

A recent 1-0 series defeat in the West Indies extended England’s winless run to five series, which included heavy losses away to India and Australia, and has seen the country taste victory only once in their last 17 Test matches.

Days after an all-too familiar capitulation in Grenada, Root highlighted the “positives” of the tour but has now brought his five-year tenure to an end in a move that could signal the beginning of the much-discussed red-ball reset.

Root, who will continue as a batter, said: “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 honour 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.”

Root took over as captain from Sir Alastair Cook in 2017 and while he oversaw a disappointing 4-0 loss Down Under, his side bounced back to thrash India at home the following year before they closed it out with victory in Sri Lanka.

Months after 50-over World Cup glory in the summer of 2019, the Yorkshire batter was again unable to reclaim the urn after Australia secured a 2-2 draw in the home Ashes series.

Joe Root celebrates a century at Headingley
Joe Root celebrates a century at Headingley (Nigel French/PA)

The arrival of Chris Silverwood as head coach was hoped to help England readdress their focus between red and white-ball cricket but the unexpected coronavirus pandemic occurred before an awful 2021.

A second successive 4-0 Ashes loss in Australia resulted in Silverwood, batting coach Graham Thorpe and Ashley Giles, who was managing director of England men’s cricket, being dismissed but Root remained in post for the West Indies under the stewardship of interim head coach Paul Collingwood.

Positive signs were evident in the draws in Antigua and Barbados but, without key duo James Anderson and Stuart Broad who were surprisingly left at home, England were thrashed by 10 wickets in the final Test to go down 1-0 in Root’s 64th Test as captain.

That figure alone is a record for the most number of matches as England skipper and his 27 victories puts him out in front in terms of overall wins, but another change of leadership has now occurred for the Test side.

“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,” England’s second-highest run scorer in Tests added.

“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.”

Predecessors Michael Atherton, Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan have all called on Root to step down in recent weeks but the latter praised his fellow Yorkshireman for being “the game’s best role model”.

Vaughan wrote on Twitter: “He (Joe) 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.”

Hussain talked up Ben Stokes last month as a possible replacement for Root, who has not let the toll of captaincy affect his batting following a record-breaking 2021 where he scored 1,708 runs.

Vice-captain Stokes paid tribute to Root on Instagram, saying: “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.”

Stokes is one of the few candidates to replace Root with the futures of experienced duo Anderson and Broad up in the air and not many other players guaranteed a place in the XI.

Tom Harrison, the England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive, talked up the “integrity and humility” of Root, but gave little mention of what is next for the Test side with a new captain, head coach and managing director all needed before the next series with New Zealand which begins in June.

“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,” Harrison said.

“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.”