Joe Root resigned as England’s Test captain on Friday after a rollercoaster five-year term that ended in a torrid run of results including an Ashes drubbing and defeat in the West Indies.
The Yorkshireman, appointed as Alastair Cook’s successor in 2017, holds the record for the most matches and most wins as England skipper, but he also has the unwanted record for most defeats.
The 31-year-old led his side to a number of notable series victories, including a 4-1 home win over India in 2018 and a 3-1 triumph away to South Africa in 2019/20.
But the past 12 months have been dismal. After winning their opening three Tests of 2021, England have tasted victory just one since, losing 11 and drawing five of their past 17.
Root’s decision comes after last month’s 1-0 Test series defeat to West Indies, which followed a humiliating 4-0 Ashes loss in Australia — the second 4-0 defeat in Australia under his leadership.
“After returning from the Caribbean tour and having time to reflect, I have decided to step down as England men’s Test captain,” Root said in a statement released by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).
“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.
‘Toll’ of captaincy
“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, who initially said he wanted to stay on as skipper after defeat in the West Indies, led England in a record 64 Tests and has overseen 27 wins and 26 defeats.
The batsman, England’s second-highest Test run scorer of all time behind Cook, scored 14 centuries as captain.
His tally of 5,295 runs as skipper is the highest by any England captain and puts him fifth on the all-time list behind Graeme Smith, Alan Border, Ricky Ponting and Virat Kohli.
“I am excited to continue representing the Three Lions and producing performances that will enable the team to succeed,” said Root, fourth in the Test batting world rankings.
“I look forward to helping the next captain, my teammates and coaches in whatever way I can.”
ECB chief executive officer 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.”
England lack a sizeable group of experienced players ready to step up to the captaincy but those in the frame include star all-rounder Ben Stokes and veteran fast bowler Stuart Broad, who was controversially dropped for the West Indies tour.
Stokes posted a message on Instagram saying it had been a “great ride”
“Watching one of my great mates lead us all out on to the field was a privilege,” he said. “You have given everything to English cricket and we all want to say thank you for your sacrifices and hard work.”
Former England captain David Gower told the BBC: “He’s had time to think since the end of that West Indies tour about his role and, the stark fact is, under his leadership over the last 12 to 18 months, nothing much has gone right.”
He added: “A lot of people, including me, had decided it was time for a new voice.”
Root’s exit leaves England — fifth in the Test rankings — without a captain, head coach, and managing director while the ECB seeks a new chairman.
England play a three-match Test series against New Zealand starting on June 2 before a Test against India and a series against South Africa.