When Mahesh Naorem made his international debut against Myanmar in March 2023 during the Tri-Nations Cup, few could have predicted his rapid rise to becoming a consistent presence in India's starting eleven. Despite India's wealth of attacking talent, Mahesh has not only secured his place but has also added goals to his repertoire, making him an invaluable asset for India head coach Igor Stimac.

Mahesh's exceptional talent has always been evident. Renowned for his silky skills, intricate dribbling, and remarkable vision, he played a pivotal role for East Bengal FC in the 2022-33 ISL season, contributing to nine goals. His eye-catching performances in the ISL earned him a senior national team call-up, but the competition at the international level posed a new challenge.

Fast forward seven months since his debut, Mahesh has lived up to his reputation. The Manipur-born player has been in scintillating form for the national team, consistently contributing vital goals.

Although India faced a disappointing defeat against Malaysia in the Merdeka Cup semi-final, Mahesh stood out as one of India's top performers at the Bukit Jalil Stadium in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.

He played a significant role in both of India's goals against Malaysia - first, smashing a precise volley from close range, and then delivering a pinpoint cross to find Lallianzuala Chhangte, who assisted Sunil Chhetri's second-half goal. Both of India's goals were a spectacle to behold, and Mahesh has become an integral part of India's playing style. 

His ability to cut inside from the wings and navigate around the box has added a layer of unpredictability to India's attack. Not only is he creating chances for his teammates, but he's also demonstrating his goal-scoring prowess, exhibiting no hesitation when driving into the box. Impressively, all three of his goals for India have come from inside the box.

Since his debut in March, Mahesh has started in 13 of India's 14 matches this year and has played a pivotal role in the team's victories in the Intercontinental Cup and the SAFF Championships. In his previous seven games for the national team, he has contributed three goals and an assist.

He marked his debut goal against Nepal in the SAFF Championship, also providing an assist in that game. While Mahesh hasn't been directly involved in more goals since that game, he displayed nerves of steel, converting both his spot kicks during the tie-breaker in the semi-final and the summit clash against Lebanon and Kuwait, respectively.

Following India's SAFF Championship victory, Mahesh has been a constant presence in all three games of the King's Cup and the Merdeka Cup, scoring two goals. Despite India's losses in those matches, Mahesh has consistently been at the heart of their most promising moments. Notably, he has formed a formidable partnership with Sahal Abdul Samad, with both of his recent goals resulting from Samad's assistance.

At present, Mahesh is truly coming into his own. The 24-year-old has already notched his first goal in the ongoing ISL season and is also demonstrating his goalscoring abilities on the international stage.

Given his current form, it's safe to say that Mahesh has transformed into an indispensable player for Stimac. With India gearing up for the FIFA 2026 World Cup qualifiers in November, followed by the AFC Asian Cup in January, Mahesh could emerge as the defining factor for the Blue Tigers on the grand stage.