Joe Root has been backed to cement himself as one of England’s all-time greats after he made the “most challenging” decision to step down as captain of the Test team.
The 31-year-old resigned on Friday following a disastrous 12 months of red-ball cricket, during which he oversaw five successive winless series and could only lead England to one solitary morning victory from his last 17 Tests as skipper.
Root conceded in a statement it only recently hit home how much of a toll the role had taken on him, even if it did not affect his batting as he scored 1,708-runs in Test cricket 2021.
Team-mate Anderson paid tribute to the Yorkshire batter, who will continue to represent his country and is second on England’s list of all-time leading run scorers in the longest form of the game.
“It’s been a pleasure to be part of Joe Root’s England side,” the Lancashire seamer, who was left out of last month’s tour of the Caribbean, wrote on Instagram.
“The way he’s managed to balance the responsibilities and stresses of leading the team while also becoming one of the world’s greatest batters has been extraordinary.
“He is an incredible ambassador for the sport and I can’t wait to see him back out in the middle where I’m certain he’ll cement himself as one of the all-time greats.”
England’s series defeat in the West Indies, where Anderson and Stuart Broad were shock omissions, followed heavy losses away to India and Australia which essentially made Root’s position untenable.
In announcing the conclusion of his five-year tenure, the Root reflected on the timing being right.
“I have decided to step down as England men’s Test captain,” Root said.
“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.”
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, he was again unable to reclaim the urn after Australia secured a 2-2 draw in the home Ashes series.
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 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 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.
Root added: “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.”
This resignation can be viewed as the official start of a new era after England’s post-Ashes red-ball reset did not go to plan.
With New Zealand set to visit in June, the ECB needed to appoint a new captain, head coach, managing director of men’s cricket and arguably a new selector after a reshuffle last April saw Ed Smith depart.
ECB chief executive Tom Harrison did not reference the urgency for positions to be filled in a statement which paid tribute to the “integrity and humility” of Root.
“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 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.”
Vice-captain Ben Stokes has been mooted as a potential replacement for Root, but an issue could be his workload given he is already a multi-format player and key all-rounder in the Test side.
A lack of other alternatives, given the uncertainty of Anderson and Broad’s futures, highlights the regression made by England in red-ball cricket.
Stokes thanked Root in a tribute on social-media, he 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.”
Broad added: “Most Test wins as England captain and a great human being.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Root’s fellow Yorkshireman Michael Vaughan.
“He (Joe) gave it everything with very little support,” Vaughan said on Twitter. “He still is and will (be) the game’s best role model for many, many years.”