Eoin Morgan has been confirmed as England's new one-day captain after the decision to sack Alastair Cook less then two months before the start of the World Cup. Reports had emerged on Friday that time had run out for Cook and official confirmation came on Saturday morning, with Cook saying he was "gutted" to miss the tournament.
The England selectors, led by James Whitaker, met on Friday at Trent Bridge to pick the squad for the World Cup, and according to Whitaker, "unanimously" indicated their desire for a change in leadership to the managing director of England cricket, Paul Downton. Further formal approval was then given by the ECB chairman, Giles Clarke, before the decision was ratified.
Whitaker said: "We spent a considerable time yesterday discussing the make up of a squad that gives England the best possible chance of success at the World Cup which begins in less than two months. Having reviewed the recent series against Sri Lanka we came to the conclusion that there was no place for Alastair Cook amongst our strongest 15 one-day players and therefore recommended Eoin Morgan be appointed one-day captain.
"We always said we would review this after the series. It was unfortunate from Alastair's point of view but we have given the coaches the best possible team for the World Cup. We sat down with Alastair at his home; we went to see him and explained our decision in an honest way.
"I would just like to say that he has soaked up an incredible amount of pressure over the last year, unnecessarily I feel, and he is an exceptional leader. The English cricket public should be grateful they have someone like that leading their Test team.
"Alastair, I have always said, is a man of immense integrity and honesty and he was determined to see it through. He has put more into England cricket than most people. He is a unique player. He is obviously very disappointed. There has been a lot of pressure on Alastair. He has carried it well. He has taken a lot of weight of England cricket for a number of months. I feel for him. We hope he will return to Test cricket fresh and strong."
Downton emphasised that Cook's position as Test captain was not under scrutiny, indicating that he would resume his leadership against the West Indies in April immediately after the World Cup.
Morgan, who has played 130 ODIs, 107 of them for England after beginning with Ireland, and who has captained the 50-overs side on eight previous occasions, is now charged with supervising a more vibrant England approach in one-day cricket.
He said: "I firmly believe that with the players currently involved in the one-day set up, we have the makings of a very good one-day side, a young side that can surprise people at the World Cup. We all recognise we still have a lot of work to do on our one-day game but the potential of this group of players is huge and it is now up to us as players to turn that potential into consistent performances."
Cook's brief statement was a rare show of emotion. "I am gutted to be left out of the World Cup squad and it is likely to take me a while to get over the disappointment," he said. "That said, I wish Peter, Eoin and the lads all the best for the World Cup. I would also like to thank all the players and fans who have supported me during my time as one-day captain."
He has struggled for a long time in one-day cricket, scoring only one half-century in his last 22 innings in ODIs. England have also lost five of their last six multi-match series and the 5-2 series defeat has seen the selectors take action. At 29, his one-day career might well be over, leaving him to concentrate on retuning his Test game.
Pressure had been building for much of the past year for England's selectors to jettison Cook, as he became a symbol for England's conservative approach to one-day cricket both as a batsman and captain, but they repeatedly tried to bolster his position in the forlorn hope that he would rediscover his form.
That desire was based not only on the wish for continuity, but upon an underlying sense of loyalty to Cook after he had unprotestingly accepted the decision to call time on Kevin Pietersen's England career after an Ashes whitewash nearly a year ago. Moores most keenly valued the continuity he brought.
England won 36 and lost 30 of their 69 matches under his leadership; that record, too, was worsening with only 15 victories in the last 37. The recent slump in form from both Cook and the team had threatened to make England's World Cup challenge a non-event.
Morgan's form has been equally alarming with only one half-century in his last 19 innings, but that half-century came when he stood in for Cook, who was suspended for a match because he presided over England's slow over rate, during the seven-match Sri Lanka series. Morgan averages 71 in his eight matches as captain and England ware now clinging to the hope that such an inspirational record will be reborn.
"Morgs has had some captaincy experience in the past," said Whitaker. "We feel it energises him. His style will be slightly different. He has had historical form and we believe he will have future form as well and this will be the catalyst to inspire that."
Downton, who was present at the selection meeting on Friday but does not have an official vote, had been one of the strongest voices in support of Cook - sounding implacably opposed to change. As recently as Tuesday, he had reaffirmed his belief that Cook was England's "natural leader", said he would be very surprised if Cook was not captain at the World Cup and suggested that the selectors would take "more risks" if they replaced him.
The selectors might well have accepted that a switch so late in the day is risky, but they had debated Cook's continuation in the role at length in September before acceding to the passionate advocacy on Cook's behalf by the coach Peter Moores. This time they concluded that the risk was a necessary one and preferable to the sense of inertia that has settled over the England one-day side.
Downton was left to endorse the selectors' change of direction in one-day cricket whilst also reaffirming Cook's Test position.
"I have complete confidence in the decision made by the selectors and having spent time with Alastair yesterday he accepts that it has been made in the best interests of the one-day side," he said.
"Eoin has held a senior role in our limited overs teams for some time and has impressed on the occasions he has led the side. I would like to congratulate him on the appointment and wish him, Peter Moores and the rest of the squad all the very best over the next three months.
"Alastair remains an integral part of England cricket and continues to have a vital role in developing our emerging Test side. I would like to thank him for his leadership of the one-day side since 2011, a period which saw the team reach No. 1 in the world, Alastair lead the team to more wins than any previous England captain and also make the final of the ICC Champions Trophy.
"Alastair will now focus on an exciting and challenging year of Test cricket beginning with a series against West Indies followed by an Ashes summer culminating in a series against South Africa next winter."
Updated on December 20 at 1600 with further comments from James Whitaker