The one thing which went in India's favour is the inclusion of Sreesanth in the team in place of the injured Praveen Kumar initially and instead of injured Ashish Nehra at the end. He is India's lucky charm. India won the ICC World T20 when he was in the team and then lost the next two editions and the ICC Champions Trophy when he wasn't there and thereafter whenever he has been in the Indian team the team has given a good account of itself.
You may or may not like S. Sreesanth, the mercurial medium pacer from Kerala, but you simply cannot ignore him. Even after India's semi-final win nobody was speaking about him and few expected him to play in the final.
He was sidelined, his critics may even say rightly so, after just one match in the World Cup in which he was a bit expensive. In the semi-final India opted for Ashish Nehra as the third seamer ahead of Sreesanth, a decision which was questioned by many. India won the match and Nehra did well and nobody questioned the decision.
Nehra injured himself ahead of the final. But few people expected Sreesanth to play in the final. Many thought Piyush Chawla will be the preferred man for the final because of his ability in ground fielding or the Tamil Nadu off Spinner R. Aswin, who can also bat a bit down the order. But India went for Sreesanth. Dhoni had this to say after the match on the decision to bring in Sree:
"Whatever we know of the Wankhede wicket, there is some help for the seamers. If it does not turn a great deal, it's difficult to manoeuvre the bowling attack with just two seamers.
"With Sree coming in, I thought we could put pressure on the opposition because their middle order has not been tested."
Dhoni was painfully aware of his decision to include Sree: "I took a quite few decisions tonight, if we hadn't won I would have been asked quite a few questions -- why no Ashwin and why Sreesanth?
Yes. It would have been quite different if India had lost the final. Both Sreesanth and Dhoni would have been at the receiving end.
Indeed Sreesanth did not play any crucial role in the match and appeared to be a bit of a weakling in the bowling line up at the initial stages. If he had taken a few wickets that might have been more than useful for the team. As the much- maligned Indian bowling looked very tight at the initial stages Dilshan broke the stranglehold by hitting the first boundary of the innings in the 5th over by pulling Sreesanth to the square leg fence. In the same over, he also produced a delightful cut to the point for his second boundary.
Generally he was not at his best in the match. But take nothing away from Kerala's 'kochan' as Sreesanth has this uncanny ability to spring a surprise or two every now and then: even if he did not make his World Cup final spectacular, special or memorable as a player, he can proudly say that 'I am the first to play in a cricket WC final'. Who can question that? Wasn't that a surprise?
Hopefully Sreesanth will soon find his ODI form too.