ALASTAIR Cook has admitted it was 'an incredibly hard decision' after he stepped down from his role as England Test captain after 59 Tests.
Cook, who plays for Essex, told the Chairman of the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB), Colin Graves of his decision on Sunday evening although confirmed his continuing commitment to playing Test cricket to Director of England Cricket, Andrew Strauss, and the selectors.
The 32-year old opening batsman is England’s most capped Test captain, has scored more Test centuries than any previous captain and is England’s most prolific Test batsman with 11,057 runs in 140 Tests to date.
And, speaking to the ECB website, Cook said it was 'a sad day'.
“It’s been a huge honour to be England captain and to lead the Test team over the past five years," said Cook, who was awarded a CBE last week.
“Stepping down has been an incredibly hard decision but I know this is the correct decision for me and at the right time for the team.
“I’ve had time to reflect after the India series and this weekend I spoke to Colin Graves, the Chairman, to explain and offer my resignation.
“It’s a sad day personally in many ways but I want to thank everyone I’ve captained, all the coaches and support staff and, of course, the England supporters and the Barmy Army who follow us home and away and have given us unwavering support.
“Playing for England really is a privilege and I hope to carry on as a Test player, making a full contribution and helping the next England captain and the team however I can.”
Appointed in August 2012, Cook has led the team through more Test matches than any other England captain, recording Ashes victories at home in 2013 and 2015 as well as series wins in India and South Africa.
Additionally, he led the one-day side for 69 one-day internationals between 2010 and 2014, another England record.
And Strauss paid tribute to his former opening partner and explained the next steps in appointing a successor.
“I want to thank Alastair, on behalf of the ECB and from a personal perspective, for the fantastic contribution that he’s made to the England Test team since taking over as Captain in 2012," he said.
"His country owes him a great debt of gratitude. He's led the team with determination, conviction and a huge amount of pride over the last five years and his record stands for itself. With more matches leading the team than anyone, including two Ashes wins, he deserves to be seen as one of our country's great captains.
“Off the field as well as on, he has shown his strengths, developing the team and its culture, managing a fundamental transition and helping us to build for the future. As with all leaders, there have been times where circumstances have tested him but his resilience and temperament have helped him to prevail and to prosper.
“He has always served with the best interests of the team in the front of his mind and stays true to that as he steps down from the role.
"Alastair will be missed in his capacity as Captain but I hope that he has a number of years left to add to his record-breaking feats as an opening batsman and look forward to his continued success.
“We now move on with the process of appointing the right successor. There are a number of established players who are playing formal or informal leadership roles and whilst we've rightly not spoken to anyone in relation to the Test captaincy so far, we can now talk fully and openly within the team.
"We expect to be able to make an announcement before the team head to the West Indies on February 22.”