Gary Kirsten, the former South African opener, is the surprise front-runner to be India's next coach. While the Indian board said Kirsten was interviewed by the coach selection committee on Monday and a formal announcement on the new coach would be made in a week's time, senior officials were saying off the record that the appointment was a formality.

"It has been finalised," a senior board official told Cricinfo. "We just need some time to complete the formalities."

Kirsten told Cricinfo the matter was still at the discussion phase and he was yet to receive a formal contract. "But things should get sorted out relatively quickly either way."

One of the issues to be resolved, he said, was when he would be able to take charge. "Probably early next year. We are actually negotiating if I can join sometime during the Australia series."

There was some speculation that he would join the team for the Bangalore Test against Pakistan next week but he ruled that out. "That won't be possible," he said. "I have some long-standing commitments in South Africa that I need to honour. So, it's the question of when I'm going to begin at the moment"

Another key issue, Kirsten said, was his family's opinion. "The most important thing is family. As we are aware in international cricketing world you spend a lot of time away from home; I've got two young kids and it's a question of seeing them enough and to do the job the properly. That'll be the biggest issue and if we can get around that we can certainly move forward in the discussions. I've had a chat with with my wife already and we will take stock when I get back tomorrow, look at it from all avenues."

He said he was encouraged by the fact that the board took the initiative to approach him. "The most important thing was they approached me," Kirsten said. "I didn't approach them, so I suppose from that point of view one can be encouraged that they felt that there's something I could offer this team. And that gives me a tremendous sense of confidence to know that I've been backed to that amount or level."

Kirsten was interviewed in Delhi by the coach selection committee, comprising former captains Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri and S Venkataraghavan, BCCI joint secretary MP Pandove, treasurer N Srinivasan and secretary Niranjan Shah. Anil Kumble, India's test captain, was also present at the meeting. The committee had decided to expedite the process with the intention of appointing a coach before the tour of Australia next month.

Among those who have applied to succeed Chappell are Chandrakant Pandit, the former Indian wicketkeeper and Maharashtra coach, Richard Done, former head of the Queensland Academy of Excellence, Leicestershire coach Tim Boon, Kepler Wessels, the former Australia and South Africa international, Terry Oliver, Queensland's coach, Dave Nosworthy, coach of Canterbury, and former New Zealand captain Martin Crowe.

Unlike the media frenzy that surrounded the applications of Graham Ford and John Emburey earlier this year, Kirsten's interview was kept very low profile. Ford did not commit to the post after he was offered it, but the BCCI announced his appointment in haste.

An unnamed BCCI source said Kirsten's meeting with the coach selection panel was kept under wraps as the board did not want a repeat of the Ford experience. "Kirsten is almost certain to get the job but the cricket board wants to be careful with all the terms and conditions before making a formal announcement," the source said.

Kirsten, 40, was one of South Africa's leading batsmen, playing 101 Tests scoring 7289 runs at 45.27 and playing 185 ODIs scoring 6798 runs at 40.95. Soon after his retirement from Test cricket in March 2004, Kirsten embarked on a coaching career, taking up an assignment as Cricket South Africa's high performance manager, after which he set up the privately-run Gary Kirsten Cricket Academy.