Harpreet Singh Bhatia, the Madhra Pradesh middle-order batsman, has been signed up by Royal Challengers Bangalore as a replacement for the injured Sarfaraz Khan for the Indian Premier League 2017. The IPL confirmed the development on Thursday (April 20) evening.
Harpreet, 25, who also bowls part-time medium pace, joined the side for a practice session at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on Thursday.
The left-hand batsman had topped the run charts in the Syed Mushtaq Ali 2016-17 competition that took place just before the IPL auctions on February 20, hitting 211 runs in four matches for Central Zone at an average of 52.75 and a strike-rate of 145.51, but was ignored in the auction owing to confusion over mistaken identity.
On the morning of the auction that took place in Bangalore, news agencies reported that Harpreet had been arrested and then granted bail for driving his car on to the Andheri railways station platform in Mumbai. The offence was in fact committed by Harmeet Singh, the left-arm spinner who had been part of the Unmukt Chand-led Under-19 World Cup-winning squad in 2012.
By the time the correction was made, it was too late, with franchises in the auction room having in all likelihood seen the original newsflash. Harpreet was then quoted by The New Indian Express as saying he was ‘mentally disturbed’ because his reputation had been spoilt and a good opportunity had been missed. “I am getting calls from everyone asking what have you done. I was hoping to be picked up at the IPL auction… When my name came, the franchises must have felt why take a player who is in police custody.”
His story did have a happy ending, however, with the Bangalore franchise picking him up in place of Sarfaraz.
“Initially, when I wasn’t picked in the auction, I was a little upset because I thought I would make it considering I was the highest run-getter in the domestic T20 event,” Harpreet said. “There was no clarity on whether I wasn’t picked because of the confusion in names or some other reason, so that bothered me a little.
“I never gave up hope and kept working hard because I believed I may get my chances during the course of the tournament. I was thrilled when I got the RCB call-up 2-3 days ago.
“At RCB, I’m looking forward to interacting with the current international stars and watching them from close quarters. It is going to be a great learning experience for me and I’m looking forward to this new beginning.”
Sarfaraz suffered a leg injury before the tournament started, during Bangalore’s final practice match at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. He was fielding at the square-leg boundary when he fell behind the ropes and had to be stretchered off the field. Though he did come back later, the franchise had said he was most likely to be unavailable for the entire tournament.
With Harpreet’s signing, it is now confirmed that Sarfaraz will miss the entire tournament.
Harpreet has played four IPL matches previously, and been part of Kolkata Knight Riders and the now-defunct Pune Warriors India. He was in good form in the entire domestic season, topping Madhya Pradesh’s charts in the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy competition, with 271 runs in five visits to the crease at 67.75 and a strike-rate of 93.77. He was also in good form in the Ranji Trophy 2016-17, scoring 537 runs at 53.70, just behind Devendra Bundela’s 555 for Madhya Pradesh this season.
Bangalore are currently sixth on the points table with just two wins in six matches, and need to win a majority of their remaining eight league games to have a chance of making it to the playoffs. Their next game is against Kolkata at the Eden Gardens on Sunday.