London: England's Alastair Cook on Monday stepped down as the Test captain after being in the role for more than four years.
The 32-year-old Cook's decision did not come as a surprise, especially after he had admitted to having "questions" over his role, following the humiliating 0-4 loss to India in the five-match Test rubber in December last year.
Cook, who led his country in 59 Tests and skippered them to Ashes victories in 2013 and 2015, acknowledged that the decision was a hard one but has come at the right juncture.
"It's been a huge honour to be England captain and to lead the Test team over the past five years," Cook was quoted as saying by ecb.co.uk.
"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," he added.
Thanking his fans for their support, Cook said he, however, made it clear that he will represent the country as a player.
"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," he said.
"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," he added.
Hailing Cook, his successor, Andrew Strauss, currently the Director of England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), said: "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."
"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."
Strauss said the ECB hoped to make an appointment before England depart for a three-match One-day International (ODI) series in the West Indies on February 22.
Young batsman Joe Root is the front runner to succeed Cook, although the ECB is yet to announce.