"It's not an obituary, I still will be around," Alastair Cook said on Tuesday as he vowed to continue his Test career despite resigning as England captain.
Opening batsman Cook stood down as skipper after an England record 59 matches in charge.
But the 32-year-old Essex left-hander, already England's all-time leading Test run-scorer with 11,057 runs from 140 matches at an average of 46.45, including 30 hundreds, insisted he was far from spent as a player.
"I really hope I am here in four or five years' time because it means I've scored some runs and England are doing well," Cook told reporters at Lord's as he gave his first detailed explanation for resigning the captaincy.
"I genuinely love playing cricket," he said. "I really enjoyed the challenge of captaincy... I couldn't give the required level anymore but I can certainly do that to my batting.
"Hopefully, the new guys will let me lead in a slightly different way," added Cook, a potential mentor to fledgling England openers Haseeb Hameed and Keaton Jennings, who both made their Test debuts in 2016.
The increasing strain of Cook's four-and-a-half year spell as full-time England captain was evident from the fact he managed seven hundreds in his first 11 Tests as skipper, but only five in his last 48.
"It (resigning) will probably give me a bit more time to dedicate to it (batting)," said Cook, who made a hundred on his Test debut against India in Nagpur in 2006.
- 'I was done' -
For all that Cook oversaw series wins in India (2012) and South Africa (2016) as well as the 2013 and 2015 home Ashes triumphs, England stuttered last year.
In 2016, England lost eight of their 17 Tests — including a maiden defeat by Bangladesh.
The year ended in a 4-0 series loss in India that marked the end for Cook, obdurate and generally well-liked by his team-mates if not always tactically innovative, as England captain.
"It was easy (resigning) because I felt, unfortunately, that I was done," said Cook.
"I think getting on that plane, leaving India, if I was brutally honest, I would have been very surprised if I captained (England) again."
England's next Test is not until their July 6 clash against South Africa at Lord's.
"You could have had those six months when you're sitting there and the pressure's off, you are not playing cricket, you can kid yourself a bit (to carry on as captain), but unfortunately I wasn't for kidding," said Cook.
Although England chief Andrew Strauss, Cook's predecessor as captain, has so far refused to confirm vice-captain Joe Root as the new Test skipper, the Yorkshire batsman remains the overwhelming favourite for the role.
Former England spinner Graeme Swann believes the 26-year-old Root should continue to be "the best batsman this country has ever produced" without "the burden" of being captain.
But Cook countered those concerns by pointing to the example set by several of Root's world-class contemporaries, whose batting had been "driven to another level" since becoming a Test captain.
"Virat Kohli (India) for example has flourished, Steve Smith (Australia) has flourished, Kane Williamson (New Zealand) as well," said Cook.
"The fact he (Root) has been vice-captain for the last two years makes him the most likely candidate."
After the South Africa series, this year England also face the West Indies at home before travelling to Australia in defence of the Ashes.
When England won the 2010/11 Ashes in Australia, Cook scored a mammoth 766 runs at an average of over 127, including three hundreds.
But in 2013/14, England's last Ashes series 'Down Under', saw them routed 5-0 with Cook, now captain, averaging a meagre 24.60.
"It would be nice to win in Australia," said Cook. "It was great in 2010, an incredibly special moment.
"The talent is there but we will have to play some great cricket because they (Australia) are very hard to beat at home," he added.— AFP