Sir Andrew Strauss, English cricket’s humblest of heroes

As I write, Sir Andrew Strauss’s ‘Red for Ruth’ campaign has raised close to £900,000. It is the latest miraculous milestone in a life brimming with acts of selflessness. We have witnessed this weekend at Lord’s the widespread admiration for the man, and such is no wonder given the years spent in service to his sport and so many outside of it.

For some time Strauss’s contribution to English cricket was ever so slightly undervalued. As captain of the Test side, he led England to number one in the world for the first time in an estimated 31 years, thanks to a 2009 home Ashes win, a first victory in the reverse series down under since 1986-7, and a 4-0 thumping of India at home in 2011.

He authoritatively cut and clipped his 7037 runs over 100 Test matches, averaging just under 41 and reaching 21 hundreds. An opener playing on the home, green-ish soils of England, such is no mean feat, but his ability as a leader is what set him apart. He commanded huge respect and admiration from his teammates, with Jimmy Anderson naming him the very best of the eight captains he has played under.

Strauss’s partnership with Andy Flower built a dynasty that has developed into a golden age under the microscope of reminiscence. His conflict with Kevin Pietersen could have brought out his worst, a battle between the self-obsessed and the self-sacrificing. It did not, and three years after retirement he deservedly found himself the ECB’s director of cricket.

In that role he brought about another cricketing boom, this time with the white ball, as Trevor Bayliss was brought in to better England’s dismal 2015 World Cup performance. It paid emphatic dividends, as Eoin Morgan and England won their first 50-over World Cup in indelible circumstances in 2019.

It was in the year previous to this that Strauss had to vacate the role due to the tragic passing of his wife, Ruth, at the age of 46. By far his and his family’s toughest test, Andrew called quite incredibly on his very finest attributes. He set up the Ruth Strauss Foundation in her honour, turning Lord’s into a sea of scarlet once a year and raising remarkable quantities towards helping families facing the loss of a parent, and for research into non-smoking lung cancers.

Knighted in 2019, Strauss comes across on commentary and in cricketing conversation as the most deferential and modest of men. He has done more for English cricket than most in its varied, deeply-rooted history, but it is for his services to society, to the young boys and girls with whom he rang the Lord’s bell on Friday morning, that he will forever be held in the highest of human esteem.