England director of cricket Andrew Strauss has backed Alastair Cook to remain a key figure in the side for many years to come despite quitting his role as Test captain.
Cook, who succeeded Strauss as England skipper in August 2012, called time on his tenure having captained his country for a record 59 Test matches.
Strauss confirmed that at no stage did he attempt to convince Cook to change his mind, such was his former opening partner’s clarity that his decision was best for both himself and the team.
The 32-year-old is now able to enhance his status as England’s most prolific Test run-scorer – the left-hander has notched more than 11,000 in 140 appearances – devoid of leadership responsibilities, and Strauss expects him to thrive.
“He’s dealt with the twin challenges of captaining and performing really well,” said Strauss. “Myself and other captains have struggled trying to keep both those balls in the air. There have been times when his form has suffered but he’s always found a way of bouncing back.
“Without the travails of the captaincy hanging over him, it will freshen him up immensely and he’s potentially got three or four years left in him at least.
“As long as he keeps playing for England, he is also going to be great source of advice for the new captain, a fantastic senior player for him to lean upon.”
Cook enjoyed some significant highs during his reign, principally two Ashes victories on home soil, a series win in India during 2012 – England’s first there in 28 years – and last winter’s success against South Africa.
There were lows too with a 5-0 drubbing against Australia in 2013-14 and the subsequent Kevin Pietersen saga topping the list, while the side drifted during 2016, culminating in a 4-0 hammering in India. Strauss, however, believes Cook should be remembered as one of England’s greatest skippers.
“I don’t think many England captains have been challenged more than Alastair,” added Strauss. “He’s had some very tough times to deal with, the Kevin Pietersen episode being one.
“He’s been to some pretty dark places, I’m sure he’ll admit that, but that incredible depth of character has seen him through that.”
Strauss stressed that it is not preordained that current vice-captain and heir-apparent Joe Root will replace Cook, although he did highlight the 26-year-old's credentials and dismiss concerns over a lack of leadership experience.
“It’s worth saying that Joe has done a very, very good job as vice-captain. He has matured a lot over the last couple of years and there is absolutely no reason why he won’t be one of the strong candidates,” said Strauss. “No-one is ever prepared for it until they do it but a lot of people can grow very quickly when given the responsibility.”