Though he’s still a young 24, Ravindra Jadeja’s career has seen more stops and starts than a bus in Bangalore traffic. There have been the troughs — a 35-ball-25 at the Twenty20 World Cup in 2009 that left him carrying the blame for India’s exit, an inexplicable run-out later that year at Hyderabad that cost India a narrow ODI loss to Australia, being unable to find a place in the 2011 World Cup squad — and more recently, increasingly, the crests.

With a pivotal role in the one-day series at home to England, the Australia Tests that followed, and now his latest exploits, Jadeja is steadily transforming the dominant perception.

Once seen as a bit-part impostor out of his depth in the big league, the Saurashtra all-rounder — safe to call him that now — is today a vital cog in the Indian ODI wheel.

“In my earlier days, I wasn’t able to perform on the ground what I had planned,” he said, after his five for 36 against the West Indies at The Oval on Tuesday. “Now I don’t worry much about what is or isn’t going to happen. I only think about the ground, the conditions, what the team requires. I only think in one direction — what I need to do today.”

If Jadeja’s fielding and batting down the order helped India against South Africa in Cardiff, it was his turn and incessantly sharp bowling that changed the texture of the West Indies innings.

Praise from Bravo

Dwayne Bravo, the West Indies captain and Jadeja’s IPL team-mate at CSK did not hold anything back in his praise of the latter.

“Yeah, Jadeja is a very good all-round cricketer,” he said. “He’s unrelenting in the field. He comes in the lower order and gets runs when needed. He bowls wicket to wicket and has a good arm-ball. And he’s being led by one of the greatest captains that ever played the game,” he said.

Bravo’s last point is significant. M.S. Dhoni’s persistence with Jadeja, for all his previous mediocrities, owes itself to the captain’s steady belief in his qualities. “He can read a person’s cricketing ability very well,” Jadeja said of his skipper on Tuesday. “That’s why he keeps backing me all the time.”

Although not in the same league as a batsman, Jadeja has gradually eased into the all-action role that Yuvraj Singh once fulfilled. His fielding has been proactive, and where circumstances have demanded five bowlers, Jadeja’s presence has lent the side a finely-rounded look. During England’s one-day series in India earlier this year, Dhoni noted so much at Ranchi. “He is definitely someone who is giving us that balance,” he said.

“We have been struggling with a seamer all-rounder. Before the new rules, we used to rely on Yuvraj (Singh) and a few other part-timers to get rid of those 10 overs, but now Yuvi will need a bit more time to settle down.

“In that way Jadeja is the perfect person to have and he can bat a bit. He is a good prospect; it is just that we need to keep faith in him. He will have a few bad games at the same time, but, overall, he will get better and better.”

Dhoni has admitted that Jadeja needs to work on his batting. And, at least visibly, his approach of late has been marked by a strong belief.

“At the international level what happens, you know, you need to score runs and take wickets,” Dhoni said. “As an individual, most of us before playing for India know we are good cricketers, but it’s the amount of runs you score at the top level that gives you the confidence.”