On February 20, the day of the IPL auction, Harpreet Singh Bhatia was preparing for the Vijay Hazare Trophy with the Madhya Pradesh team in Indore when news reports emerged that the police had detained him for driving his car on to the platform of the Andheri railway station in Mumbai. It later emerged that the player in question was not Harpreet, but Harmeet Singh, the left-arm spinner who was part of India's Under-19 World Cup-winning side in 2012.
According to the Indian Express, multiple news agencies and websites had mixed up the names and published Harpreet's photograph with the erroneous story. Some websites, the Express said, had not corrected the mistakes until late on Wednesday. By the time the amended reports clarified that Harpreet wasn't involved, he had already spent a harrowing few days responding to calls and messages on his supposed detention.
The incident, however, coincided with Harpreet, 25, not being picked in the IPL auction. Harpreet said he wasn't upset about not being picked at the auction, but that he was "confused" about the circumstances leading to the outcome. He had finished as the leading run-getter in the Syed Mushtaq Ali inter-zonal T20 tournament earlier this month, with 211 runs in four games, including a 51-ball 92 for Central Zone against South Zone.
"It happens at times that you don't get selected; I have no problems with that. This happened on auction day, so there was more confusion," he tells ESPNcricinfo. "But I will feel good if I get some clarity one way or the other. Did I go unsold in the normal course of things or was it because of this incident? This incident happened two hours before the auction and the reports were on social media in no time. Such reports would have sent a wrong message to any franchise."
The Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association has supported Harpreet and pointed out that the "erroneous reporting has tarnished the name of this upcoming player beyond repairs. It has caused mental trauma to the player and his goodwill."
"The player also expresses that since this report was widely circulated on the very same day of the IPL auction i.e. 20 February 2017, he harbours this reasonable apprehension that the IPL franchisee could have disregarded his candidature for selection, which otherwise was greatly supported by his consistent performance in BCCI domestic season and particularly the recently concluded T-20 Tournament for the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy," MPCA secretary Milind Kanmadikar said in the release.
"MPCA supports the player in this matter and requests BCCI/IPL to consider if this incidence has erased opportunity of his selection for IPL and in the event if any remedial action can be adopted to protect the future of the player."
He felt that the inevitable fall-out of the incident was a damaged reputation. "I felt bad not because of not being picked in the auction, but that whatever name I had earned due to my hard work has been spoilt for no fault of mine. I was disturbed, but my family was more disturbed than me. I have now come out of it because you have to be strong as a sportsman if you have to do well."
Harpreet also sympathised with Harmeet, his former team-mate at the 2010 Under-19 World Cup, over the mix-up.
"There is no fault of his in what has happened to me. Even he wouldn't know what's been happening - he must be as confused as I am," he said. "I hope he is safe and there is no major issue. It isn't nice when such an incident happens to someone you have played with."
Harpreet has played four IPL matches till date, turning out for Kolkata Knight Riders in one match in 2010 and three matches for the Pune Warriors between 2011 and 2012.