GLOUCESTERSHIRE could recruit an overseas player to succeed Alex Gidman as captain.

The 31-year-old has stepped down after four years in the role, but the county insist they will not rush into appointing a new skipper.

That has opened the door to the possibility of a signing from abroad taking on the mantle with Kane Williamson and Ed Cowan being touted for the role.

New Zealand batsman Williamson has played for Gloucestershire for the last two seasons and captained the side in Gidman's absence during his first year at the club, but his availability has been restricted by international commitments.

Cowan had two short spells with Gloucestershire this year, either side of captaining Australia A on their tour of England, but a major complication is that he could be named in the squad for his country's Ashes tour next summer.

Gloucestershire chief executive Tom Richardson said: "We are very grateful to Alex for the commitment, loyalty and dedication he has shown as our captain, first as an able deputy to Jon Lewis, and then as our appointed skipper.

"The question arises about how to replace him as captain. We know we need to recruit an overseas signing for next season and one option we shall certainly explore is bringing that player in as our new skipper."

Gidman's decision did not come as a huge shock after he handed over the reins to Hamish Marshall for the successful t20 campaign this year.

The announcement came just days after the side finished bottom of County Championship Division Two, in which he scored 528 runs at an average of 25.14.

He now wants more time to concentrate on his own game and will remain a key member of the playing squad as a senior batsman with one year remaining on his contract.

Gidmansaid: "I am very proud of the contribution I have been able to make as Gloucestershire captain.

"But I have not enjoyed the role as much this season and feel the time is right for someone else to take over.

"My intention now is to spend the time I was taking up with captaincy issues on improving my own game.

"My plan for this winter is to devote more hours to practice and fitness work than I have ever done. Hopefully that will result in lots of runs for the team next summer."

Gidman's tenure started in 2009 and heralded the second coming of the John Bracewell era, who returned to the club as director of cricket after five successful years as head coach between 1998 and 2003. However, it has been a difficult transitional period with financial constraints leading to an exodus of senior players.

Bracewell said: "Alex has faced a particularly tough period as captain trying to deliver success with a young and developing squad.

"With all the extra demands on him, he has not been able to spend the time he wants to on his own game.

"He still has a stack of runs left in him as a player and I'm sure will benefit from being free of the worries captaincy brings."