The Durban-based Dolphins franchise have a new boss after Heinrich Strydom was unveiled as their CEO on Tuesday. Strydom is currently in charge of provincial side North West, one of the teams that feed into the Lions' franchise, and will take over at Kingsmead from August 1.
Strydom succeeds Pete de Wet, who left Durban for Napier last August. The franchise has since been overseen by two acting CEOs, Rajesh Behari, and Muhammad Seedat who will remain in charge until Strydom takes over ahead of the 2017-18 season.
At 34, Strydom will be the youngest franchise CEO but he brings with him almost a decade of experience in cricket administration. Apart from his role at North West - a union which regularly plays host to international touring sides for warm-up matches and which will host its first Test since 2002 against Bangladesh this summer - Strydom has also served as general manager of the Lions. His work in creating a venue that is in demand from visiting teams such as Australia, and in building one of the most successful outfits in the country, should serve both Kingsmead and the Dolphins well.
The franchise is desperate for silverware after three barren seasons. The Dolphins' last success was in 2013-14, when they won the T20 competition under coach Lance Klusener. They have since gone through a period of strife during which Klusener's contract was not renewed, internationals such as Kyle Abbott and David Miller left, and de Wet stepped down, before stabilising under new coach Grant Morgan.
"It is an exciting prospect to work with Grant Morgan, a man I know quite well, having played against him in a Club Champs final. Taking on a national franchise was always the next step for me and I am really looking forward to the challenge of running the Dolphins franchise," Strydom, an opening batsman who played five first-class matches, said. "I am not coming in to change everything. There are a lot of really good things at the Dolphins but I do believe that we can be in the top three franchises in the country."
Apart from domestic results, Stydom will also look to grow Kingsmead's profile, as it seeks to remain one of the premier international venues in the country. Last season, the stadium hosted an early season Test against New Zealand in August and there was no play possible for three of the five days because of a soaked outfield. The fault did not lie with administrators in Durban, but with an ill-timed re-scarifying of the outfield.
Nonetheless, Kingsmead's outfield was judged poor by the ICC and its reputation took a knock. Two ODIs were played at the stadium since then without incident but Kingsmead continues to fight for its status as the Boxing Day venue of choice for Tests.
Recent years have seen the festive fixture alternate between Durban and Port Elizabeth and there is no confirmation of where or if it will be played this summer. With India yet to confirm their fixtures for a four-Test tour of South Africa, Kingsmead has to wait to see which of the matches it may host. The next scheduled Test is in March 2018 against Australia but a host of domestic matches, including those in the inaugural South African T20 league, will precede that. Ensuring Kingsmead is up to standard will be among Strydom's biggest tasks.