Rohit Sharma India
India opener Rohit Sharma celebrates after reaching his century against Australia in the second one-day international, October 16Reuters

When does a cricketer, to use the oft-used cliché, come of age? Is it when they play a few matches and finally feel like they belong on the international stage, with no one game to point out? Or is it when they play an absolutely blinding innings, in the case of a batsman, one of authority against quality opposition and finally debunk the naysayers?

Did Sachin Tendulkar become a man from a boy in that 1989 Test against Pakistan, or after his first hundred in Australia?

After a few years have passed and when we look back on a career of a man from Mumbai, maybe we will point out to October 16, 2013 in Jaipur when India absolutely smashed Australia, chasing down 360 in just 43.3 overs.

Rohit Sharma has had his critics ever since he made his debut for India way back on 2007. Six years is more than a long enough time for someone to establish himself in the Indian cricket team, even with the talent that the country has in the batting department.

Talent - that is why, though, isn't it that Sharma has been criticised so much over the years, and yet stuck with time and again despite innumerable failures. Because when it comes down to it, there are very few batsmen in world cricket, who are as naturally talented and gifted as Rohit Sharma.

Matthew Hayden, during his commentary for the match on Wednesday, kept repeating how chuffed he was seeing Sharma play like he did -- 141 not out in 123 balls, if you were wondering - because of all the "natural talent" that he possesses.

Natural talent is just one aspect that makes a sportsman great, though. You also need the right attitude, discipline and drive to become the best.

How many sportsmen have there been who have been immensely talented, but never quite proved on the big stage consistently? Talented footballers, for instance, are a dime a dozen; but so few make it right to the top of their sport.

Sharma for six long years looked like he was going to be just another player, who has all the talent in the world, but would yet fail to make full use of it - a less self-destructive right-handed Vinod Kambli, if you will.

However, this past year has been a sea change for Sharma. First the Mumbai Indians captaincy was thrust upon him as Ricky Ponting sat on the bench unable to warrant a game in the T20 extravaganza that is the IPL.

Now most people will say, Rohit Sharma is a completely different player in Mumbai Indians colours. The way he dominates the bowling, and the ease with which he does it, in the IPL is quite remarkable, and the mantle of captaincy has only, if anything made him better for the Mumbai Indians.

That form has never really transferred to the Indian cricket team. Until now, that is.

There were slivers of clues that we could be on the verge of the Rohit Sharma breakthrough - something that everyone has been expecting for years and years - at the Champions Trophy, when the elegant right-hander looked composed and right at home opening the innings for India.

Yet, despite several scores of note, there was no century; no innings that took India to victory against all odds. The West Indies tour was also pretty much the same - get in, make a few runs, probably set a platform, and then, unnecessarily get out.

With Tendulkar retiring at the end of his 200th Test next month, there is a massive hole to fill in the middle order for India in Test cricket.

Now is the time for the pretenders, or contenders, to put their hands up and say: "Hey we're capable."

Yuvraj Singh did that with a stunning innings in the T20 match against Australia seven days ago; Suresh Raina will get that opportunity and come good - after all it is one-day cricket, the left-hander's bread and butter.

Sharma also needed that one innings, at the very least, to prove to not just the world, or the selectors, but himself - that he belonged up there, that he was meant to be there and that he would stay there for some time yet.

The unbeaten 141 could be the turning point; the innings which made Sharma from a petulant yet talented, sometimes unfit boy into a batting genius of a man.

Only time will tell of course, but for the sake of all lovers of elegant right-handed batting - let's hope so.

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