STEVE Rhodes and Joe Leach have put together a “hit list” as Worcestershire start the search of potential candidates to fill their 2018 overseas player slots.

Director of cricket Rhodes and captain Leach have to find a replacement for John Hastings who was due to return to New Road next summer but has retired from first-class and 50-over cricket due to injury.

The pair want to have an overseas player in place “from day one” as the County look to establish themselves in Specsavers County Championship Division One.

But whether they are able to secure one player for the bulk of the summer or have to find personnel for different parts of the season will depend on availability.

Rhodes said: “We are looking. I’ve had a couple of meetings with Joe about it. We put some names together on a big sheet — a hit list.

“When we looked deeply into it, we realised there is a lot of water to pass under the bridge.

“The IPL plays a major part in a lot of the top players' schedules with the extraordinary money and that’s their priority.

“One of the aspects with us is we don’t want to wait until June. We want an overseas player from day one.

“Whether we break it up into blocks, that could be an option. Whether we try and take someone for the whole season, that is another option.

“When we’ve had these two meetings, we’ve decided let’s not rush, take our time and see how things materialise.”

Rhodes added: “The good thing now is it gives us a bit of flexibility to plug some holes in the squad but having said all that it is really important to say we are all disappointed for John that his career in the longer and 50-over formats has ended.

“It is not a nice time for any cricketer and for someone as whole-hearted, well-liked and popular in our dressing room as John it’s a big blow.

“We wish him all the best in the T20 this winter and it’s a shame his body has not quite stood up to the longer form.”

Worcestershire survived in Division One in 2011 via four overseas players in Damien Wright, Shakib Al Hasan, Saeed Ajmal and Kemar Roach.

Rhodes said: “A lot of those would have been thrust upon us through unavailability for a long period of time.

“That might happen again or it might be we get lucky and get someone for a period of time.

“Being in a position to move is really important but having the flexibility to not rush into anything is important as well.”

Indian spinner Ravichandran Ashwin made a big impact during the finale of the season, providing a huge lift to the dressing room and making key contributions on the pitch.

Rhodes said: “Would I love for him to come back? That is another option. We have looked at the schedule. Ashwin knows Hasto’s situation and he’d love to play more county cricket.

“We need to try to pin down exactly his availability because that could be something we work around.

“We could sort of use him as our banker, say we’ve got him for these games and fill some holes elsewhere so that could be a possibility.

“But knowing what your fixtures are is really important when you do something like that.

“You wouldn’t mind Ashwin playing at Taunton, for example, but when are we playing at Taunton? No one knows.

“Again there are many reasons why we will not rush in now, just wait and find out first all of the fixtures and then availability.

“We might even wait for the IPL because some guys miss out on it and then suddenly there is more availability.

“The danger there is it is February and it is not an easy situation with visas. It can be very tricky, the overseas player slot.

“I’ve signed many overseas players at the end of an English season and they’ve not made it to the start of the next English season because of injury.

“There is no mad rush at the moment and it's nice to have the ability to sit back.”