TOO often Shane Watson has learnt the hard way. ''If it doesn't get to the point where it's not absolutely, totally perfect, then I don't want to make the same mistakes of the past,'' he said of his latest ailment, a calf strain, which has struck him down with four days remaining until the first Test.
''If you do push it then it can mean the whole series is gone and that is the last thing that I want.''
With that the Australia vice-captain, No.3 batsman and all-rounder on Sunday all but ruled himself out of the opening Test against South Africa, starting at the Gabba on Friday. He made an appearance at Brisbane's Allan Border Field on Sunday, as NSW slumped to a six-wicket defeat to Queensland inside three days, but was in the company of the Australian team physiotherapist Alex Kountouris rather than his state teammates on the suburban ground.
While selectors met in Brisbane on Sunday night and chose Rob Quiney as a stand-by player for Watson - ex-captain Ricky Ponting is tipped to play without a back-up despite hamstring tightness - the 31-year-old was weighing up the bigger picture. When he speaks of past mistakes, he is talking chiefly about this time last year.
Recovering from a hamstring problem, Watson had been keen to play in the home series against New Zealand as a batsman only. Selectors weren't interested, however, and he was sent back to rehabilitation with a view to getting him back bowling and returning in his most valuable role - an all-rounder. In the process he tore his calf and was a write-off for the summer.
Nearly a year later he is wary of pushing too hard, too soon again and missing the marquee portion of the international season against South Africa, which will be over in a month.
''I'm doing everything I can to make sure if, worst-case scenario, I miss the first Test, then I won't screw it up and miss the second and third,'' Watson said. ''It is going to get to a point over the next couple of days where it is looking good and I will be able to push it a bit. I'm in a place where I feel like I am very comfortable with my game and I feel like this summer has been something I've been looking forward to since the last summer, to be able to play the South Africans here.
''I'm very hopeful more than anything. I hope things go really well over the next couple of days to get to a point where I can push it and be able to play. I am desperate to play. I want to do everything I possibly can to be able to get out there, so hopefully in the next couple of days things will work out all right and I will be in a place where I can make a decision.''
A subplot in the Watson episode is whether selectors have changed their minds on choosing him, in the circumstances, as a batsman and not an all-rounder.