Gloucestershire are back to square one in their search for a new captain.
The county are seeking a successor to Alex Gidman, who stood down as skipper after four years in the job at the end of last season.
Gloucestershire director of cricket John Bracewell has ruled out an internal appointment, preferring to look overseas for a leader.
But having approached three candidates in recent weeks, it seems the county's top targets are unlikely to be available throughout the 2013 season.
Australian Ed Cowan, who spent a short spell on the staff last season, has always been Gloucestershire's preferred choice, but the Tasmanian is likely to be offered a central contract after making his maiden international hundred in the drawn first Test between Australia and South Africa in Brisbane this week.
That will increase the likelihood of the left-handed batsman being named in the Australia squad for next summer's Ashes series, thus ruling him out of playing for Gloucestershire.
Bracewell has also spoken to Kane Williamson about the possibility of returning as overseas player and captain, but the 23-year-old batsman is almost certain to be called up by New Zealand for next year's tour to England in May and June.
Tasmanian batsman George Bailey is another target and he and Bracewell have been in contact regarding a possible deal, but, once again, availability is an issue given that the 30-year-old Australian is almost certain to feature in the national team at the ICC Champions Trophy twenty20 tournament, to be staged in England in June next year.
A frustrated Bracewell said: "It is difficult getting somebody for a 12-month period and we feel we need the same captain consistently across all fields of the game.
"We want a consistent message on the field for our young players as opposed to having a captain for a month who then goes away to play in an international series."
He added: "Plan A went a little awry over the weekend with Ed Cowan doing what he did. It was great for him, but not so good for us.
"He showed a lot of leadership qualities when he was here and also a desire to improve his own leadership abilities. That is why Australia made him captain of their A side.
"He was Plan A, but if he plays in the Ashes, it will rule him out for two months of the county season.
"We have had to look at contingency plans and George Bailey was another we were looking at.
"However, with the one-day series and the Champions Trophy, that is eight weeks out of the season.
"As for Kane, he would like to come back. But it comes down to whether that is the best choice for Kane and the best choice for us.
"New Zealand have a tour next summer as well and he is sure to be involved in that during the first two months of the season."