Former England director of cricket Andrew Strauss says it has been a “long five months” since his wife Ruth died from a rare and incurable lung cancer in December.
She had received her diagnosis a year earlier, with Strauss returning from the Ashes tour of Australia to be with her and their two boys, Sam, 13, and Luca, 10.
Strauss, 42, then announced in October 2018 he was stepping down from his role with the England and Wales Cricket Board after three and a half years, in order to support his wife.
Ruth, to whom he was married for 15 years, died two months later, aged 46.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast on Wednesday, Strauss acknowledged that his wife’s death has changed his perspective on life.
He said: “My outlook on life is completely different now. In the cricket world, with a lot of little issues that people are getting in a tizz around, I’m just like: Don’t worry about it.
“You know really, it’s funny because it probably would have helped my cricket career if I didn’t care as much. You just go out and play with a bit more freedom.”
‘She was so focused on protecting her boys’
Strauss initially took a break from his role with the ECB in May in order to spend more time with Ruth.
He paid tribute to the way she focused on helping her family prepare for life without her.
“Ruth was going to die at some point, so her focus was preparing me and the kids for life after her,” he said.
“In order to do that, she had to accept something that she really didn’t want to accept – that she was on the way out. That takes an enormous amount of strength and courage.
“Ruth thought, ‘OK, even though I’m not going to be around, they’re still going to live a long and happy life’.”
As part of that process, the couple visited a counsellor, who gave them valuable advice and support in preparing for her death.
Strauss said: “I remember the first time we went and saw a child grief and loss counsellor and how relieved we both felt when the counsellor said, ‘You know what, the kids will probably be OK if you do this, this and this’.
“It was a huge weight off Ruth’s shoulders in particular. I think when her time did come, she felt like we were set up – but only on the back of having that really good support.
“But you know, hats off to them [the boys] – they’re very strong, very resilient and determined to go out and live their life as fully as they possibly can.”
‘I’ve got a platform to try to make a difference’
The former England captain set up the Ruth Strauss Foundation in honour of his late wife, to provide grants to fund research into rare cancers and to provide emotional support to patients and their families.
As part of that initiative, there will be a launch event – the Ruth Strauss Foundation Family Mile – at this Sunday’s Westminster Mile.
Reflecting on the time since Ruth’s death, he said: “It’s been a long five months, I’ve got to be honest – and a long year before that, actually, as Ruth was going through her cancer journey.
“But it’s such a wonderful thing to be able to launch something in her honour to try to provide a legacy for her, but more importantly to help other people who are going through a similar journey.
“If someone has cancer, it’s not just them who has cancer – it’s everyone around them as well and it’s tough.
“I’ve got a platform to try to make a difference to other people.”
‘I am literally watching every ball that’s bowled’
While immersed in charity work, Strauss is still keeping a keen eye on England’s progress.
Strauss came in as ECB director of cricket after England’s group-stage exit at the 2015 World Cup, and under his watch, Trevor Bayliss was brought in as head coach, with greater emphasis placed on the limited-overs game.
Captain Eoin Morgan has suggested in the past that Strauss deserves a great chunk of credit for England’s rise to the top of the one-day world rankings.
Strauss has played down his own part, but feels that England are well placed to succeed at the tournament, which starts when they face South Africa at The Oval on 30 May.
“This whole quest to win the 2019 World Cup, that was my job when I was director of England cricket,” Strauss said.
“I’m on the outside now but I am literally watching every ball that’s bowled because we are at the business end now.
“I take none of the credit because I’m not out on the pitch.
“I played a very background role in terms of trying to get the environment together but Eoin Morgan and Trevor Bayliss have done a great job.
“You know, number one in the world is fantastic and what that tells us is that we genuinely believe we can win the World Cup. But the big question is: Can we do it in knockout cricket?
“I’m really confident. I think we have a game plan that is going to put other teams under pressure and it’s about consistency, a World Cup. So fingers crossed that we’re not far away.”