Joe Root has been named as England’s Test captain, succeeding Alastair Cook, who last week stepped down after four years in the job.
Root, 26, had been the frontrunner to follow Cook in the Test role, having been made vice-captain in 2015. He met with Andrew Strauss, England’s director of cricket, last week and was offered the job over the weekend but will have to wait five months for his first outing as captain, when England host South Africa in July.
There were few serious alternatives to Root, who has emerged as England’s star batsman since making his debut under Cook in 2012. Ben Stokes has been confirmed as Root’s new vice-captain. The appointments had been widely anticipated, with England leaving for a one-day series in the West Indies next week.
“It is a huge honour to be given the England Test captaincy,” Root said. “I feel privileged, humbled and very excited.
“We have a very good group of players and I’m looking forward to leading them out in the summer, building on Alastair’s achievements and making the most of our talents in the years ahead. The senior guys in the changing room play a very influential role and whilst there’s a natural progression for me it’s a huge support to know that they are there to help and advise.”
Strauss chose to give Root more responsibility when taking over as director of cricket two summers ago and he was pleased that the Yorkshire batsman had immediately accepted the promotion to captain, described him as “the right man” to succeed Cook.
Strauss said: “Joe has shown a number of admirable qualities in his Test career so far. Making his debut in 2012 at the age of 21 and going on to establish himself as one of the premier batsmen in all forms of the game in such a short period of time demonstrates his drive, determination, cricketing intelligence and an ability to learn that will serve him well in his new role.
“He is universally respected by his team-mates, passionate about driving the Test team forward and extremely excited about the prospect of leading his country.
“I’m also delighted that Ben Stokes will take over from Joe as vice-captain of the team. He has real presence and influence within the team environment that serve as a great source of support for Joe. I have no doubts that the responsibility will also help Ben to continue his rapid rise as a world class allrounder.”
Colin Graves, the ECB chairman, called Root as the “perfect choice” to be England’s 80th Test captain. “When I spoke to him last night you could feel the excitement and sense the pride – he can’t wait to get started,” Graves said.
“Joe is a fine player and a fine person who has the respect of the players, the selectors and all at the ECB. He also has a changing room with experienced players and leaders who will support him from the start.
“The role of Test captain is an honour and a responsibility which he thoroughly deserves. Joe has maturity beyond his years and having seen him develop at Yorkshire over the last ten years I know his qualities well.
“I offer my congratulations to Joe for becoming Test captain and, once again, my thanks to Alastair Cook for the way he has developed the team, the timing of his decision and the platform he has given his successor.”
Root inherits a talented side from Cook but one that has, in its previous captain’s words, “stagnated” over recent months. England lost eight of the 17 Tests they played in 2016, including six of the most recent eight. Cook admitted a “new voice” was required in the dressing room.
While Root has little captaincy experience – he has led for only four first-class games – he is respected by his peers as a senior player and had been the team’s vice-captain. It would have been a major surprise had he not been appointed. Stuart Broad, one potential candidate for the position, described Root as “ideal” for the role, while Stokes has previously suggested he harboured few captaincy aspirations. “You have to be boring like Cooky if you want to be captain,” he said when asked about the role on the recent tour of India.
There may also be some concerns over Root’s workload. As a key batsman in all three formats of the game – and as a new father – the demands on his time and energy are already substantial. But he can point to the example of Virat Kohli, in particular, and argue that the increased responsibility may improve his individual performance.
Root will have some time to settle into his new role. England do not play Test cricket again until July, with a four-match series against South Africa and three-match series against West Indies providing time for Root to shape his new team before an Ashes tour towards the end of the year.
His relationship with the coach, Trevor Bayliss, may prove crucial. While Cook and Bayliss did not always appear to be in unison over England’s style of play, it is anticipated that Root will adopt a bolder, more aggressive approach that may be more to Bayliss’ liking.