Alastair Cook talks up Joe Root but throws three other names into mix for next England captain

Ross McLean
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Joe Root has served as Alastair Cook's vice-captain since 2015 (Source: Getty)

Erstwhile England skipper Alastair Cook has extolled the virtues of would-be successor Joe Root, describing his heir-apparent as someone who would command huge respect in the dressing room.

Root, 26, has been installed as the frontrunner to replace Cook, who brought his four-and-a-half-year reign as England Test captain to an end on Monday, admitting he could no longer summon the necessary energy and commitment to lead his country.

Cook also namechecked Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow as candidates who possess the requisite qualities to captain England, although reserved the most ardent praise for Yorkshireman Root.

“Joe is the most likely because he has been vice-captain for a couple of years,” said Cook. “[Director of cricket Andrew] Strauss has obviously seen some leadership in him.

“He has got a very good cricket brain, he is part of a newer generation and he’s a bloody good cricketer. He demands respect in the changing room because of that. He’ll be an outstanding candidate.

“I also think, slightly more left-field in one sense, that Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow probably come into consideration because of their standing in the dressing room. The way they operate and drive things is special.”

Cook admitted the die was all but cast on his future as he boarded the return flight from India in December following a 4-0 series drubbing, but opted to afford himself time to ensure his decision to resign was best for all concerned.

“The hard bit was giving it away and being honest with myself that is was time to go,” added Cook. “In other ways the decision was made easier because I felt that I was done.

“It’s a job that you need 100 per cent commitment for and, looking in the mirror at the end of India, I knew I couldn’t do that. It might have been 95 per cent but that’s not good enough.

“It’s just the culmination of doing the job for a long time. I have been to the well a couple of times as England captain and I couldn’t go again.”

While there were significant highs such as the unexpected Ashes victory in 2015, Strauss said on Monday that he felt Cook had been forced to deal with more challenges, both on and off-field, than any of his predecessors.

The Kevin Pietersen saga, which followed the disastrous Ashes whitewash of 2013-14, at times cast a dark shadow over Cook’s tenure, and one the 32-year-old admits was the nadir of his captaincy.

“I do wish it had been done differently,” said Cook. “The decision [to end Pietersen’s England career], I was part of that team that made the decision and it was a decision we thought was best for English cricket.

“There were certain times in 2014 that I felt like I was the only one who made the decision. I did bear the brunt of it. That was certainly the toughest moment off the field.”