On Monday night I went up to the Lord's Tavern, outside the ground. David English had a book launch, 'Story of an Englishman'. He's an eccentric cricket follower who runs the Bunbury XI, a mix of entertainment celebrities and professional cricketers, who play for charity. Bunbury also sponsor the English Schools Cricket Association. David is agood egg, a fun guy in a professional world.
I turned up with Mark Butcher, the Surrey captain, and Ian Salisbury' Jeffrey Archer and Andrew Flintoff were also there. It was very busy with everyone wanting apiece of Flintoff. I didn't want to add to the crush but then he came over and said hello. He's the sort of bloke that, although he is the star, he makes other people feel special. That's why he is such a popular, genuine guy.
That night he had to leave early to go to the Vodafone England dinner where he was named Player of the Year. It was another sign of how far he's come since I walked back from the nets with him in 2002 in New Zealand. We he had a chat there and he couldn't get a run. He'd had a few noughts and a bad run in India beforehand. He seemed at the end of his tether and didn't know what to do, having tried various techniques. He then went out and lashed a hundred while Graham Thorpe got a double. He's not looked back since but he still does the small things.
For instance, in the winter I went to the launch of an Asian newspaper, Gujarat Samachar. The room was full of 200 people, mainly Asian. "Freddie" came along and it was chaos. All the time he ate his curry he had 20 people queuing uptoseehim.He was so patient. Every time he steps out the door he's on duty yet he's such a good role model.
When he was made captain I had a great fear. I felt he had so much on his plate, how could they expect him to do everything? But it was something he desperately wanted to do and he does seem very relaxed about it. It helps that he has a good set-up behind him, very different to when Ian Botham was made captain. But the key time will come when England don't play well, that's when you can judge someone.
2. A double century won't always be praised
This year, for the first time in my career, I wasn't feeling enthusiastic when the season started. I felt a hangover from last year. That was a big disappointment with Surrey being relegated. But once we got into the matches it all changed. The team are winning matches, we're top of the Second Division, and last week, in my 20th season, I hit a career-best score. So it's a great start.
The main challenge for us this season is to adapt to away grounds. We know how to play at the Oval, it's nice and bouncy, a true wicket. What we have to do is adapt to the slower wickets when we travel to grounds like Leicester, Derby, Bristol and Worcester. In the second game we did that at Leicester and got a good win, so confidence is high.
I was obviously delighted to get 292 against Gloucestershire. I've been asked: "Why didn't you get the triple hundred?" The reason is on the third morning I was 276 not out. I said to "Butch" that we should declare so we had time to bowl them out rather than let me bat on. There's no satisfaction getting a big score if Surrey don't win. As it was we batted on for half an hour. I tried to get 300 but Gloucestershire had men on the boundary and made it hard. I had to take risks and was out.
This is the first time I've played in the Second Division for six seasons and it will be interesting to see how different it is now, if it is. It's a bit early to judge but one thing I have noticed is that Second Division counties seem more reliant on their overseas players. Gloucestershire are a good example. For our match they lost Jon Lewis to play for England A, then Ian Harvey, their Australian all-rounder, was injured batting. So they were depleted. First Division sides are more able to cope with …