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November 28, 2004
India v South Africa, 2nd Test, Kolkata, 1st day
Sunday was the first day of the rest of Jacques Kallis' life. Or the rest of his career, anyway. Two things were different about century number 17 that distinguished it from the previous 16.
The first is obvious - it was his first on the subcontinent and a little monkey was removed from his back. A classy and natural player of spin bowling, and even more proficient player of pace and swing, Kallis had begun to hate his failure to reach three figures in Pakistan, India or Sri Lanka.
"It was definitely, definitely one of my best," he said afterwards. "It was hard work - the ball was reversing for most of the afternoon and we were under pressure. To do it at Eden Gardens makes it even more special," he said.
The other reason is that it was his first century scored in front of fiancee Cindy Nell. No, just kidding. Actually, the other reason Kallis may well remember this hundred longer than most others is because it was his first as a 'giver' rather than 'receiver' in the team, his first as genuine senior player within the squad rather than merely someone with a lot of caps.
As his seniority rose in the team Kallis became more and more content to allow junior players to approach him for advice, if they chose to, or to learn their lessons by making the same mistakes he did. Having been given little guidance himself in his early career, and being too shy to seek it, he learnt the hard way and was happy to allow the next generation to do likewise.
But before this tour something happened to change all that. Coach Ray Jennings asked the team to talk about how they perceived each other, what they really thought, not just a facade. One of the newest members of the squad said of Kallis: "He's a great player who doesn't want to share his knowledge." Kallis was stung: that just wasn't the way it was at all.
Kallis is now a full-time carer and nurturer, a 'giver' if ever there was one. For the first time in 17 he felt the full affection of his team mates when he reached three figures and they, probably also for the first time, knew what was going on inside his head.
It was a special century.
Neil Manthorp is a sports journalist based in South Africa and is a partner in the MWP Sports Agency