The welcome of whoops, chants and flag-waving at the Pearl Palace in Digbeth, Birmingham, befitted a man who bestrode the world of cricket and is determined to change politics in one of the world’s most troubled regions.
Judging from the turnout of more than 1,000 people – many of whom remained locked outside – it would be easy to assume that Imran Khan wields as much power in his Pakistan homeland as he did with a bat or ball during a 20-year international sporting career.
In fact, no members of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party hold a seat in the Pakistani parliament after he took a stand against the country’s leaders last year and tore up his nomination papers in protest at the country’s Government.
It was this sort of principle rather than Mr Khan’s achievements as a politician that drew the huge crowd.
The event was a fundraising and membership drive for the party to help it prepare for the next election and during a 40-minute speech in Urdu, punctuated with English words, Mr Khan was clapped and cheered.
The pro-democracy PTI was founded by Mr Khan in 1996 and he won its first and only seat in Pakistan’s parliament in 2002 with 0.8 per cent of the vote.
Since then, the profile of the party has grown but in 2008 candidates tore up or burnt papers after Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was put under house arrest by the President, General Pervez Musharraf.