Twelve months ago, Shane Watson was a shock selection for Tasmania. This week, he's the proudest cricketer in his country after winning a call-up to Australia's Test squad for its upcoming tour of South Africa.

Last summer, it was for his role at the centre of a recruiting coup that most clearly distinguished Watson from other young cricketers in Australia. But what has become obvious throughout the following year is that skill and unlimited potential are the ingredients which best set him apart.

And now, recognition of that talent has been consummated in his inclusion in the 15-man national squad that will embark on a three-Test tour of South Africa early next month.

"It was a big surprise; I never really expected anything like this. My goal, obviously, is to play for Australia but I didn't really think this would happen at least for a couple of years," he says of his rapid-fire progression to a place among the country's elite.

"I'm very excited; it's something that I never expected. I'm looking forward to playing with the guys I've always watched on TV."

Watson is 20 years old, living close to 2000 kilometres away from the city in which he grew up, and has played only 12 first-class matches.

Yet, despite his relative inexperience and his rather unconventional introduction to domestic ranks, he is in the midst of a tour de force of Australian cricket.

It was a journey which began with Tasmanian coach Greg Shipperd's inspired decision to pluck the then 19-year-old Queenslander from relative obscurity at the Australian Cricket Academy in Adelaide and blood him straight into interstate cricket. The move surprised almost everybody at the time - most notably Queensland administrators and coaches, and even its captain, who hadn't thought the youngster worthy of even a second eleven game.

Yet Watson, for one, was unfazed. He promptly struck two half-centuries, a magnificent century against South Australia, and ended the first-class season with a batting average in excess of the 50 mark. Eleven wickets also came his way in his handful of matches at moderate cost.

It was quite obvious quite early that Queensland had allowed something special to slip from its grasp. And its bewildering loss has continued to become the Tigers' bedazzling gain.

"I want to go through my life having no regrets and there's genuinely not a single regret about coming here. None at all.

"I love the place and I've loved just being down here in Tasmania. Everything is close, which I really like. And when it's sunny, it's the most beautiful state in Australia - on the basis of what I've seen of the country anyway," he adds.

Caught in the midst of plummeting early form for the Tasmanian side as whole, Watson's returns with the bat this season have been less flattering by comparison with those in his first.

But his bowling - which harnesses bristling aggression, pace and accuracy - has rapidly become a headline act. A total of 15 first-class wickets have come his way in his last 38 overs alone.

"In terms of all the things that have happened to me in the last 12 months: I never really thought they'd occur. Playing first-class cricket was something I didn't really think I'd do until a couple of years later. And coming to Tasmania as well was something that I obviously didn't expect to do.

"It's been an unbelievable ride for me.

"My game's definitely improved. My bowling's improved out of sight in that period; I worked very hard on it in the off-season ... just getting a lot stronger so that I could bowl a lot more overs.

"Your game automatically lifts when you're around, and up against, better players. You never really think you're good enough to play against them until you do. Since I've been really young, I've always found that's happened: that I've been able to step up to the next level when I've been forced to go there. Hopefully, I can keep doing that at the next level as well."

Part of a side being rebuilt around youth, Watson's high-octane game has also translated itself perfectly to the tranquil setting of Tasmania. Strong of body, strong of mind and strong of will, he has rapidly become a favourite among Tasmanian players, officials and followers.

That said, he's an easy cricketer to like.

And not just because he's one of the more humble, pleasant and unspoilt young players around at the moment.

Nor simply because he plays the type of cricket most of us wanted to play as schoolkids - complementing a full array of batting strokes by bowling with the sort of whistling velocity matched only by the wind.

But also because there's genuine excitement value in what Watson could bring to Australian cricket during the next decade or more. He might well be the authentic all-rounder that the country has craved for years.

"I suppose I enjoy batting a bit more because it isn't as hard on your body. But I love both and I'm working hard on both," he says.

By any measure, this has been another exceptional month in what is fast becoming an exceptional career.

It marks the anniversary of his move to his adopted state; it saw him play his first-ever games in Australia 'A' colours; and has then had him leading a remarkable resurgence from Tasmania in a competition which the state appeared to have no chance of winning only three weeks ago. To complement the run, a staggering 11 wickets came in the space of a perfectly scripted day - and in front of two national selectors - against Queensland of all teams.

And now comes inclusion in a Test squad.

The last Tasmanian player earmarked for international duty at such a young age was Ricky Ponting, which offers more than one coincidence in a state which has rarely had its players elevated to such a level.

"My hero as a cricketer has always been Ricky Ponting. I love the way he plays his cricket: his attacking nature with the bat and also the way he fields.

"I've always looked up to him, and it was great to play my first game with him in the state team earlier this season in Sydney. It was the biggest thrill I've ever had.

"I try to get into his head as much as I can to realise how much you have to work, and what you have to do, to get where he is now."

The two already get on famously and Ponting has been following the all-rounder's progress keenly. Though often far away, he has been regularly in touch.

Now the phone calls will be kept to a minimum, for he can watch his protégé first-hand.