Atherton backs Cook to play on after resignation

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Michael Atherton says there is nothing to stop Alastair Cook continuing his outstanding Test career after he resigned as England captain.

Cook's decision to step down was accepted by the England and Wales Cricket Board on Sunday, bringing an end to a reign of almost five years - during which he led his country a record 59 times in the longest format.

Joe Root is the favourite to replace England's leading run-scorer in Tests, who is committed to carrying on at the top of the order.

According to former England captain Atherton, the 32-year-old, who oversaw a 4-0 series loss in India late last year, still merits a place in the side under his successor.

Atherton told Sky Sports News: "It's not a surprising one, I don't think. Those of us who were at India at the end of the year saw the look in his eyes at the end of that Test series; it was a very heavy defeat. He looked exhausted at the end of that.

"Sometimes if you go away and have a break it can change your mind, but after four years in the job I think he realised he'd had enough. Once you get to that point you know yourself and no-one can change your mind."

The ex-England opener added: "There's no reason why he wouldn't stay in the side, he's only 32 and he's got plenty of time left, but that's down to the new captain.

"Once you're not captain yourself, you are no longer guaranteed a place in the side. It's down to the new captain and the selectors but it's hard to see why Cook wouldn't carry on.

"Other captains have carried on beyond their time as captain. There's no reason why he shouldn't carry on.

"If you have done the job as long as Cook has, to be honest it's a relief to get rid of it at that point. You can just carry on, enjoy your cricket, you're not making the decisions and that's an enjoyable place to be.

"I don't think Cook is the type who absolutely demands leadership. I think he will be very happy sitting in the back seat and enjoying his time as a player.

"I can't see him as the type to make life difficult for a new captain. So I'm sure he will carry on and I'm sure Joe Root, if it is Joe Root, would want him in the side."

The ECB's director of cricket Andrew Strauss, Cook's predecessor as captain, has said the organisation hopes to appoint a successor before the team departs for a tour of the West Indies on February 22.