With two reported positive coronavirus cases in Sri Lanka’s returning contingent from the tour of England, the start of the white-ball series against India is set to be pushed back to July 17, PTI reported on Friday.

India’s tour of Sri Lanka, under Shikhar Dhawan’s captaincy, was scheduled to start on July 13 with the first of three ODIs. There is no official announcement yet of the decision.

“The decision was taken as Sri Lanka Cricket wanted the players to serve an extended period of quarantine to maintain the safety protocols,” according to a report on Sportstar.

“Yes, the series will now start from 17th of July instead of 13th. The decision was taken in consultation with SLC keeping the safety and security of players in mind,” a BCCI official told PTI. The report added that the tentative dates could be July 17, 19 and 21 for the 50-over games, while the three-match T20I rubber is likely to start from July 24.

Sri Lankan team’s data analyst had tested positive for Covid-19 ahead of the limited-overs series against India, the country’s cricket board said on Friday, which was a day after the side’s batting coach Grant Flower contracted the virus.

“The Data Analyst of the Sri Lanka National Team, GT Niroshan, has tested positive for Covid 19,” Sri Lanka Cricket had said in a statement. “He was found to be positive, following a PCR Test carried out among the National Players, Coaches, and Support Staff yesterday, following the identification of Grant Flower as Covid-19 Positive. Niroshan is now undergoing due medical protocols.”

“The times we live in! No series is on till it actually begins. Now Sri Lanka-India to get pushed back because of cases in the SL team returning from England,” commentator Harsha Bhogle tweeted. “Increasingly the only way to play is to have a strict bubble; won’t be surprised if England is forced to go that way again.”

On Thursday, Sri Lanka’s batting coach and former Zimbabwe international Flower tested positive for Covid-19, 48 hours after the squad’s arrival from England and less than a week before the home series against India.

He had been isolated from the rest of the squad which is undergoing hard quarantine on arrival. Flower was with the team in England where it lost both the T20 International and ODI series.

All the other players who are quarantining have also been tested, reported PTI adding that before testing negative, Sri Lanka’s squad had faced an anxious wait for the results of their PCR tests on returning home, following a Covid-19 outbreak in the England squad after the final match of their tour in Bristol on Sunday.

The Indian team, being led by Dhawan with Rahul Dravid as chief coach, has completed its hard quarantine and has been training in Colombo.

According to PTI, a source in SLC informed that all the Sri Lankan players who came back from UK have tested negative.

“Once the contingent returned from the UK, Grant tested positive on arrival in RT PCR on the first day. All other players were then in their respective room (hard) quarantine. We removed Grant immediately in separate isolation zone. He is asymptomatic,” the source added.

“Yesterday we tested the others once again and today G T Niroshan’s report came positive and he was also isolated. Since we didn’t receive any other positive reports as of now, it means that the players who returned from UK have tested negative in their second RT PCR test.”

The series is now being pushed back by four days despite the SLC keeping two groups of players in separate bio-bubbles.

“Apart from the UK-returned batch, we have created two more bio-bubbles in Colombo. In one bubble there are 13 players and in another there are 26. So, 39 players are available to pick a squad from. But BCCI would like to play the first team for obvious reasons,” the SLC source said.

Sri Lanka are set to take on India in a six-match white-ball series starting July 13. Already, three Sri Lankan players are facing an inquiry for breaching the Covid-19 protocols in UK during the tour.

Earlier, England’s entire ODI squad and support staff were forced into self-isolation after a number of Covid-19 positive cases, forcing the England & Wales Cricket Board to name a new squad to face Pakistan.

(With PTI inputs)