Lord’s will transform from a smattering of egg-and-bacon into a sea of red on the second day of the second Ashes Test – on August 15 – in a show of support for the Ruth Strauss Foundation, set up this year as a tribute to former England captain Andrew Strauss‘ late wife, who died after a battle with a rare form of lung cancer.
The move will see the players of the two teams wear red caps and red stumps being using, with fans in attendance encouraged to wear red. It’s an almost direct parallel to Pink Stumps Day at the SCG in honour of the Jane McGrath Foundation.
“The one huge opportunity you have as an ex-cricketer is to use that platform to raise awareness for what you’re trying to do,” Strauss, who served as ECB’s director of cricket after finishing up as a cricketer, said. “As soon as you go down that train of thought you think about the incredible work the McGrath Foundation has done in Sydney, and you think is that possible to replicate in this country.
“I’ve played all my cricket here [for Middlesex] at Lord’s, and it’s an Ashes Test – you just think ‘wow, if the MCC are willing and able to make this happen, are willing to support it, we can put this together’.”
Strauss said he had been “blown away” by “the incredible wave of support from the cricket family and fraternity” since his wife’s passing on December 29 last year.
“This is the embodiment of that,” he said. “Doors have been opened that usually wouldn’t be opened and everyone’s said, ‘yeah, let’s do it, let’s make it a special day’.
“I’m hopeful that it’s going to be a successful day for the foundation and a great spectacle – an addition to what’s going on on the pitch – it’s an incredibly important game and incredibly important day.”
Strauss met his wife-to-be in a Sydney bar in 1998 while playing grade cricket during the winter, and were married five years later. Ruth, a non-smoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2017, and Strauss stepped away his job as England team director to care for her at the time, though he formally resigned only in October 2018.
Strauss played in one of the earliest Pink Tests in the 2010-11 Ashes, which England won to seal the series 3-1.
“My recollection of the Pink Test was how keen all the players were to support Glenn McGrath and support him, and what the charity was doing,” he recalled. “It added an extra dimension to the Test match and maybe a moment to pause and reflect and go ‘it’s an Ashes series, we’re all at each other’s throats and desperately want to win, but in the greater scheme of things there’s more important things out there’.
“I loved the day, I thought they did it brilliantly, and I loved the way the Australian public connected and bought into that as a concept.”
McGrath and Strauss have been in regular discussion about the personal aspect of dealing with grief while in the public eye, as well as the day itself. “He’s a great man,” Strauss said, “and it’s incredible to see how successful that foundation has been in Australia.”
Strauss has spoken publicly about dealing with grief in a handful of newspaper interviews, and the effect Ruth’s passing has had on his two sons, Sam and Luca.
The World Cup final on Sunday coincided with Luca’s 11th birthday, and Strauss said that it had been a bittersweet moment. “Time has passed by so quickly,” he said. “It’s been so incredibly busy for me and the boys – a lot of distraction there which has been great, but there are touch points where it really hits you.
“Sunday was an incredible day for him to come and watch the World Cup final and how it unfolded, but the night before and the mornings were moments where it hit you that there were three of us there rather than four. Grief is not something that dies overnight – it hits you forever, but it evolves and changes.”