On one of my many promotional visits to India, I teamed up with Sachin Tendulkar to be ambassadors for Boost Energy drinks. After we’d finished shooting a television commercial we arranged to have dinner with Liz and Sachin’s wife, Anjali, at Sachin’s own Mumbai restaurant. Indians eat notoriously late, so it was about midnight when we finished our meals, and as we prepared to say our goodbyes Sachin asked me in his typically quiet way: ‘Would you like to go go-karting?’
‘Yeah, that sounds great. Let us know what time tomorrow and we’ll link up,’ I replied.
‘No, no, I mean now,’ said Sachin.
I was surprised, but why not? Soon afterwards we arrived at a track; I’m not sure if it was Sachin’s own facility, but there were certainly a lot of people making sure he had everything he needed as soon as we got there. There must have been 30 or more pumping petrol, starting karts up, checking tyres, polishing helmets, dusting the track. Someone wheeled out Sachin’s kart, which had 10, his cricket number, on it. Another one was wheeled out for a friend of Sachin’s, and I was given one that didn’t look as flash as the others; I’m sure Sachin stitched me up! We all got fitted in the proper clothing, including gloves, but when it came to getting into our machines, my fast bowler’s backside was too big for the seat. Sachin laughed; I had no choice but to accept I was like an elephant driving a Mini. About half-a-dozen workers at the track jumped into other karts to swell the race number, and before I knew it I was on pole at the start line swallowing smoke and waiting for the lights to change.
Before I go any further, I must tell you that one of the reasons Sachin has had so much success on the cricket field is because he wants to win; in fact, he has to win. And he was the same behind the steering wheel of a kart. Red, orange, green, and racing! We floored it, and headed into the first bend of a figure eight circuit. Straight away, Sachin flew up on my inside, but I didn’t see him in my little putting machine. I took a different line and in doing so bumped another driver coming through, who in turn crashed into Sachin. That triggered a pile-up after only 10 seconds of the race. I looked over and there was a wheel spinning next to Sachin’s head. The world’s best batsman got out and cracked up laughing. He was just a big kid having fun. We ended up having another race, which Sachin won. By the time we’d finished mucking about it must have been about two or three o’clock in the morning. I was exhausted. Then Sachin asked me: ‘Do you want to go for a drive tomorrow?’
‘Yeah, what time?’
‘I’ll pick you up at half past five.’
That sounded a good plan to me. I didn’t know exactly what he meant by going for a drive, but since it was Sachin I expected there’d be some surprise involved. I told him I’d rest up throughout the day and see him in the evening, but he shook his head and said, ‘No, no,
I meant 5.30 this
Not wanting to disappoint him, I went back to my hotel, had a couple of hours’ sleep, and woke up like a bear out of hibernation. At right on 5.30 a red Ferrari pulled up at my hotel. Vrroooom! Everywhere else, there was quiet. But within a minute or two there were 50 or more people crowded around the car saying to each other: ‘Sachin and Brett Lee!’ Many were ringing their friends and telling them. I got in the car, and then Sachin spun around and sped off. It was dead quiet on the road, and it was only then that I realized this was the only possible time Sachin could drive without either traffic jams or the hassles of his own popularity, which would cause even bigger traffic jams.
Extracted with permission from Random House India My Life; Brett Lee with James Knight; Random House; `499. It is slated for an early June release after which it will be available at bookstores
The many sides to brett lee