Red-faced Indian selectors were left searching for alternatives after senior pro Sachin Tendulkar turned down their offer to take over as Test captain.
One-day and Twenty20 skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni subsequently emerged as the front-runner, but veteran spinner Anil Kumble, batsman Venkatsai Laxman and former captain Sourav Ganguly were all believed to be in the running.
"We have a big choice to make and I am sure we will make the right one," said former Test captain Dilip Vengsarkar, who heads the five-man selection committee.
He declined to comment on Tendulkar's refusal to take over the high-profile job, often regarded in this cricket-mad nation as the second-most important after the Prime Minister's.
The selectors are scheduled to meet in Mohali on Thursday to pick a successor to Rahul Dravid, who unexpectedly stepped down in September for unspecified reasons.
Tendulkar, 34, told the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) he was not interested in the captaincy, saying a younger man should be appointed.
"Tendulkar has conveyed to (BCCI president) Sharad Pawar that he was not in a position to accept the captaincy," BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah said in a statement.
"Tendulkar was of the view that presently the Indian team was doing extremely well and the board must think of appointing a younger person as the captain looking at the future of the team."
Tendulkar served two stints as captain between 1996 and 2000 before he voluntarily quit in March 2000 saying he wanted to concentrate on his batting.
Under him, India won four of 25 Tests with nine losses and 12 draws.
Dhoni, 26, led a young Indian team -- missing Dravid, Tendulkar and Ganguly -- to victory in the inaugural world Twenty20 championships in South Africa in September.
The popular wicketkeeper-batsman was also named one-day captain, but the experienced Tendulkar had been widely tipped to take over the Test role for the upcoming series against Pakistan and Australia.
India hosts Pakistan for three Tests starting later this month and plays four Tests in Australia from December before another home series against South Africa in March.
Dhoni has played 20 Tests since his first appearance in December 2005, scoring 1,019 runs at 36.39 with one century.
Leg-spinner Kumble, 37, whose 566 Test wickets are bettered only by Australia's Shane Warne (708) and Sri Lankan Muttiah Muralitharan (700), said he will accept the captaincy if it is offered to him.
"I would certainly do the job if asked to," the 118-Test veteran told the Cricinfo website on Wednesday. "I don't know what the big deal is, why so much is being made of this. I have said this before also.
"I don't know whether I'm in the race, but if it's offered it would be a great honour. I have relished it whenever I had the opportunity. But that's not something for me to decide."
Former Test batsman Sanjay Manjrekar said Kumble would be the right choice.
"I really wish the selectors would offer the Test captaincy -- now that Tendulkar has declined it -- to Kumble. Why isn't anybody talking seriously about him?," Manjrekar said on Cricinfo.
"This will be the perfect gift for the man who has done such a great service to Indian cricket and has never got the Indian captaincy."