Cape Town - He had been preparing to head back to Australia to prop up his squad after a shaky start to the 2017/18 Ashes tour, but instead director of England’s national cricket team Andrew Strauss finds himself going into battle for a very different and much more personal reason: his beloved wife Ruth has been diagnosed with cancer.
According to The Guardian, Ruth is undergoing medical tests before Christmas and needs her husband - with whom she has two sons, Sam (12) and nine-year-old Luca - at her side.
“His family need Andrew’s full support at this time,” a spokesperson for the England and Wales Cricket Board says.
The board is said to be completely behind the South-African born sportsman’s decision to bow out of the tournament and be with his family, The Telegraph reports.
Andrew had been scheduled to miss the third Test in Perth due to other commitments and was planning to return to the Ashes tournament for the final two tests Australia. Instead he’s decided to remain in England with Ruth.
As Ashes tours go, this was turning out to be a headache for Andrew who departed the tour after Joe Root's team went 2-0 down in Adelaide.
He also found himself spending a lot of time fielding questions over the behaviour of the players off the field when batsman Ben Duckett was slapped with a three-game ban after pouring beer over team-mate Jimmy Andersen in a Perth bar.
Andrew met his beautiful Australian-born wife at a bar in Sydney while he was playing cricket there in 1988 and 1989. They married in 2003.
At the height of his career, when he captained the England to Ashes victory in 2009, Andrew credited Ruth as his support system.
On the second evening of the fourth Ashes Test that year, it seemed Australia were heading for victory and a despondent Andrew couldn’t even be cheered up by his sons (four and one at the time).
“Eventually she [Ruth] said that some people had been blown up in Afghanistan – they were the ones who had had a bad day,” Andrew wrote in his book, Testing Times, which he published later that year.
“She was right.”
England went on to win the series that year and Andrew dedicated the victory to Ruth.
“The support network you have is vital,” he said after the final match. “Ruth's been amazingly supportive.”
Now, it seems, it’s Andrew’s turn to return the favour.
Cricketers who’ve struggled with cancer in the family
Glenn and Jane McGrath
In 1997 Jane Steele (then 31) stepped out of the shower and while combing her hair noticed a lump in her left breast that would mark the beginning of an 11-year battle with cancer. At the time she was engaged to popular Australian cricket star Glenn McGrath,
Jane, an air hostess, had a mastectomy in 1998 and after chemotherapy and radiation, was declared free of breast cancer, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
The couple married the following year and went on to have two kids, James (now 17) and Holly (15). Glenn and Jane started up their own foundation to raise funds and spread awareness about breast cancer.
In April 2003, Jane’s breast cancer returned. The cancer went into remission but by 2006, scans picked up bone cancer and later, a brain tumour was detected.
The tumour was successfully removed and Jane went into remission once more. But complications set in after the operation and on 22 June 2008, she died aged 41 in the family’s home in Cronulla, Sydney. Glenn and their children were at her bedside
In a statement Glenn paid a moving tribute to his late wife. “I would like to think Jane will be remembered as an extraordinary person whose courage and determination humbled me and inspired so many people. Jane would want those women who are battling breast cancer to stay strong.
“She would want them to draw strength from the fact she didn't only ‘survive’ breast cancer for 11 years but during that time she lived life to the fullest and found pleasure in the simple things so many people take for granted.”
Jonny Bairstow and his mother, Janet
He was more than 8 000km away on tour in Pune, India, when he got the devastating news: 15 years after his mother had beaten breast cancer, the disease had returned. And this time round, an 11-hour operation was needed.
“The trek home began as a long day's journey into a sleepless night,” the England batsman and wicket-keeper recalls of that day in December 2012, The Mirror reports.
The 28-year-old cricketer arrived 20 minutes before Janet was wheeled out to the operating room, leaving him with just enough time to “kiss her and hold her hand”.
The ginger-haired sportsman had lost his father to suicide when he was eight and was not about to lose his mother too.
Three years later, on Janet’s 60th birthday, Johnny took his mom to be wined and dined at The Oyster Box in Umhlanga, Durban.
“The perfect day is one in which nothing can be added afterwards to make it even better in the memory. We had that perfect day.”
Today, Janet is 62 and fighting fit.
Brad Haddin and his daughter, Mia
The Australian batsman was on tour in the West Indies when he received a call from home that would change his life. It was his wife, Karina, calling to tell him their 16-month-old daughter Mia had been diagnosed with a Wilms tumour, a cancer that starts in the kidneys, according to Daily Mail.
He returned home immediately.
Little Mia was taken to hospital where two blood transfusions and a number of tests showed the blonde-haired girl actually suffered from neuroblastoma, a cancer found in the adrenal glands, and not a Wilms tumour.
The cancer had attacked her body so badly she was bleeding internally. The doctor decided to stop the bleeding by injecting tiny beads into her arteries.
Five months later, in 2012, Mia was sent home and given chemotherapy.
Her first regular post-treatment scan showed no signs of cancer and today, she’s a happy school-going five-year-old.