ALASTAIR Cook’s decision to step down as England cricket captain this week came as little to shock to most after a tough final tour in India.

But while it may be time for a change to stop, as the man himself told media this week, the national cricket team stagnating, there is no disputing Cook will be a hard act to follow.

Thrust on to the Test scene a little over 10 years ago, the 21-year-old Essex opener lived up to the billing and immediately began to rack up the runs for his country.

Cook went on to score 1,000 runs in his maiden year as a Test player and become the youngest Englishman to reach 1,500, 2,000, 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 and 10,000 Test runs, making centuries in each of his first Test matches against India, Pakistan, West Indies and Bangladesh.

It was not all plain sailing with a dip in form, particularly a lack of centuries two years into his international career.

But he stuck with it and was the natural choice to replace Andrew Strauss as skipper in 2012.

Since then it has not been an entirely easy ride for captain Cook – the controversial sacking of Kevin Pietersen in 2014 a huge storyline that the outgoing skipper this week admitted left him feeling bitter.

He fired a parting shot at the governing body, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), claiming in one interview he was ‘hung out to dry’ as the public perception was that he was solely responsible for Pietersen’s exit.

It was certainly a big issue and continued to rear its head whenever England results were poor.

On the whole, however, it is hard for even the KP debate to detract from Cook’s record as captain.

He is second only to Michael Vaughan with the number of victories from his record 59 Tests as skipper – with two Ashes series wins highlights.

I agree with pundits who have labelled Cook as one of England’s greatest captains and hopefully without that stress he stays among the runs.

As for his successor, Joe Root is the overwhelming favourite and it is widely expected he will get the nod.

It will be interesting to see how he fares. He never comes across in interviews as the outspoken type who will rant and rave in a dressing room, but there’s no doubt he has the respect of his peers in the camp.

As long as it doesn’t impact on his batting form, Root would be a good choice in my opinion.

If he gets anywhere near the last Yorkshire star to have the job in Vaughan then he will not go far wrong.