From time to time, Imran Tahir still misses the old days.
Much less now perhaps, because he has forged a successful international career with the Proteas, but Pakistan will always be Tahir’s spiritual home.
It was there, before love had lured to him South Africa that he became the man he is, and learned the finer arts of leg-spin bowling from legends such as Abdul Qadir that have seen him rise to the very top of his craft in limited-overs cricket.
An annual return home allows Tahir to re-connect with his motherland, where he reminisces with the old folk about his days of playing tape-ball cricket in the shadows of the Gaddafi Stadium.
Tahir is back in Lahore this week. But this is no nostalgia trip. It is so much more. In fact, the 38-year-old is an ambassador for the game as part of a World XI squad facing Pakistan in a three-match T20 series that hopes to bring regular international cricket back to the Asian nation after the 2009 terror attack on a Sri Lankan team bus shut that door.
Having had to wait so long to play international cricket on home soil, the series is the fulfilment of a lifelong dream for Tahir, even if he will be in the "opposition" dressing-room.
“(As a child) I wanted to represent my country but it all depends on luck. But I am glad that at least I am an international player and representing the South African team,” Tahir said.
“I have mixed feelings as I am very glad to be here and feeling great to play international cricket at (my) home ground. Although I have to play against the team of my own country, I am committed to my duty which is to perform well for the World XI.”
Tahir definitely has more friends in the World XI squad, with four fellow Proteas joining him on this mission in Pakistan, including captain Faf du Plessis.
This large South African contingent within the World XI can be attributed to Tahir assuming the role of prime negotiator a while back.
“I tried to convince all my teammates and many agreed and some agreed to visit the country next time. I worked for the good cause and I will continue doing so. I want players to come here and support Pakistan cricket,” Tahir said.
“There is absolutely no problem here. People are very positive and have given warm hospitality to their guests. There is army, rangers and police everywhere to protect all of us so there is no security fear at all.”
There is an interesting duel in prospect between 18-year-old leg-spinning prodigy Shadab Khan and Tahir. The teenager already boasts an enviable CV: ICC Champions Trophy winner, Caribbean Premier League champion with the Trinbago Knight Riders, a Pakistan Super League sensation and holder of a Big Bash League contract with the Brisbane Heat.
Like Tahir, he utilises the googly as his main strike weapon. He would also have benefited plenty from his time at the CPL playing alongside fellow T20 superstar spinner Sunil Narine.