RUTH STRAUSS FOUNDATION
The Ruth Strauss Foundation was set up to provide grants for research into her and other rare iterations of the illness. © Getty
On day two of the second Test (August 15), Lord’s will be a sea of red – Ruth Strauss’s favourite colour.
Ruth, the wife of former England captain and director of men’s cricket Andrew Strauss, passed away seven months ago from a rare form of lung cancer. In her honour, the Ruth Strauss Foundation was set up to provide grants for research into her and other rare iterations of the illness. The foundation also provides emotional support to patients and their families.
“It’s just becoming real, there’s been a lot of talk about this happening, a lot of imagining what it might look like and now we’re on the cusp of it actually happening,” Strauss said on Wednesday. “There’s a lot of anticipation about what we’ve got in store and what we might be able to get out of it and how we might be able to change people’s lives as a result.”
The premise is for those attending the Ashes Test on Thursday to wear some form of red to show their support. There are a number of other fundraising initiatives which include being able to bid on the limited edition caps and shirts that will be worn by the England and Australia teams.
“On a personal level it’s going to be an emotional day for me and the kids,” said Strauss. “It’s great to be here and sample it and get a feeling of how much support there is for the foundation and people who want to pay testament to Ruth.
“We’ve been trying to get it out there. MCC have been in contact with ticket holders and I’d like to think there’d be a fair number of people wearing red. There’s a lot of unknowns. More than anything we’re already blown away by the exposure we’ve had. It’s a massive step forward for the foundation and it gives a great platform to build over the coming months and years.”
The initiative takes cues from the annual “Pink Test” in Sydney which was started by Glenn McGrath after the passing of his wife Jane from breast cancer. Day three sees the Sydney Cricket Ground and attendees decked out in pink for the McGrath Foundation, which has been going since 2005.
Strauss has spent time with McGrath to discuss how best to run a day like this, but also for emotional support. The pair even sat down with BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew last week to talk about their shared experiences. One particular nugget was the role kids have in how they both handled their grief. As Strauss noted in the interview, young kids mean life does not stand still but continues to move forward even in time of grieving.
As it happens, the Sunday of the World Cup final (July 14) was Strauss’ son’s 11th birthday. He took both him and his other son to Lord’s, hanging out in the Sky Studio were Strauss was a pundit. And as amazing a day as it was – they are both huge cricket fans – Strauss has spoken about how the periods around the match were toughest. “The night before and the morning, it really hits you that there are three of us there and not four.”
Ruth, for the longest time, was Strauss’ rock. Someone who offered him perspective since they first met in 1998. ©Getty
But hurting and remembering is important, which is why days like Thursday and the McGrath Day at the Sydney Test strike such a chord. Because it is not about simply remembering those honoured, but others – lost in similar circumstances or otherwise – who are taken from us too early.
There is a sense of community, from top to bottom that allows it to cope through times of grief in a manner unique to a sport which has an intangible bond with death.
Cricket may at times suffer from a nostalgia problem, but it is consistent at remembering those who have been lost. During the countless celebrations across London after England’s World Cup success, in a quieter corner of one hotel, there was reflection that former Surrey batsman Tom Maynard, who played with a number of the 50-over side, would have slotted in seamlessly into this set-up. Maynard died tragically on the London Underground seven years ago. He would have been 30 this year.
Strauss hopes this day becomes more than just cricket and cricket fans: “We’ve done a lot of work with Cancer Research UK in terms of research into lung cancer. They have lung cancer as one of their five priorities going forward, they feel there is an unmet need there. We’re working with them to understand what projects are currently going on and where rare forms of lung cancer fit into those projects as well. We’ve also been working with Maggie’s Centres in terms of support they offer cancer patients and families. There’s over 20 of them around the country doing a great job and there’s potential to add on the pre-bereavement support.”
Ruth, for the longest time, was Strauss’ rock. Someone who offered him perspective since they first met in 1998. Even in advertising this day, he cannot help noting how Ruth would have said, “no, don’t do that, please, it’s not about me”. As he also notes, it isn’t about her. But rather using her – specifically, her life and the many who benefitted from – to better the lives of others.
To find out more please visitruthstraussfoundation.com