Before "train smarter", before "are you going to pick a bloke who hasn't made a hundred in two years?", before the "leadership group" sanction for asking why he was batting below Matthew Wade in the Victoria batting order, Glenn Maxwell's first public dressing down by the Darren Lehmann-era team hierarchy took place in the Adelaide Airport arrivals hall, a little more than four years ago.

Chasing 317 to beat a pre-Peter Moores England, Australia were reasonably placed at 5 for 222 in Perth with Maxwell in the company of Daniel Christian, needing 95 off the final 66 balls. To that very delivery, the first of a new spell from Ben Stokes, Maxwell swung wildly at a change of pace and managed only a thin edge through to Jos Buttler, the first of five wickets to go down for 37 and hand England their first victory of the tour. A few days after a similarly inattentive dismissal had left James Faulkner to conjure his Brisbane miracle in the company of Clint McKay, this was enough to set off Lehmann the following day.

''It got down to 95 off 11 or 12 [overs] and in this day and age you should get those,'' Lehmann said. ''Disappointing to lose 5 for 50 or whatever it was and fall short. So our blokes - and Maxwell - he's got to understand, we've got to play better cricket.' He understands he has got to be a better cricketer for us to get to where we want to get to.

"He's got the talent, but the way we want him to play, he's got to finish those games off for us. He's a great young kid and the thing is he realised his mistake from last night and he owned up to that. He's got to get better. He's batting in the top six so he is a batting all-rounder so he's got to show the responsibility to bat like that at six. We know he's got flair and excitement and we love that about him but we want him to understand the game better."

Next to some of the more recent rebukes, this was as much carrot as stick ("we love that about him"), but the underlying message was clear. Lehmann and others did not believe Maxwell understood the game and how to play it, beyond sizing up his next big shot. It is a contention that has lingered ever since, through the 2015 World Cup, last year's failed Champions Trophy campaign, and a summer in which Maxwell has spent far more time on the sidelines than in the middle for Australia.

For much of this period, there has been a noticeable gulf in how Maxwell sees himself and where he should improve, versus the way the Australian team views the 29-year-old. Pointedly, in mid-2016 he observed that "I don't think I can rest on just being a batsman. I know Steven Smith went that way when he lost his Test spot, not really bowling much at all. But I don't think I can go that direction. I have to keep working on both parts of my game and make sure they're good enough."

What followed over much of the past 18 months was telling - whenever Maxwell did play for Australia, he barely bowled, and as captain Smith generally preferred to use the part-time spin of Travis Head when both men were in the side. Meanwhile, Maxwell's continued inconsistency as a batsman, with the exception of his outstanding Test century in Ranchi during last year's epic series against India, allowed Smith, Lehmann and the selectors to continue thinking this outrageous talent was not listening to their years-old message about the need to "understand the game better".

One of the fascinating things about the gap between Maxwell and the team hierarchy was that it has remained despite the Victorian making several efforts to improve himself as a player, however ham-fisted. First, there was collusion by Maxwell and New South Wales to have him move states in 2016 during a limited-overs tour of Sri Lanka. This accounted for everything except for the fact that Victoria had no intention of letting him move - and effectively blocked it by correctly pointing out that the window for Cricket Australia contracted players moving states had well and truly lapsed.

The fact that this appeared to have been done with the blessing of Smith and Lehmann as a way of helping Maxwell develop his game was forgotten when Maxwell then found himself understandably on the outer with the Bushrangers. A new state coach in Andrew McDonald dropped him from the start of the Sheffield Shield season, before Maxwell was sentenced to batting-order penance below Wade that caused him to describe the situation as "painful" and then be criticised by Smith and fined by a leadership group of Smith, David Warner, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood that had never been heard of before or since.

Following that misadventure, and aided by some advice about perceptions from the Melbourne Stars coach Stephen Fleming, Maxwell then made the effort to knuckle down at training. For the first time in some years, he spent time concentrating on longer-form batting technique and consistency, more so than the crazy, brave and inventive shots that had him dubbed "The Big Show" as far back as his first international tour in the UAE in 2012.

The fruits of this work were writ large across the Ranchi innings, but Maxwell was unable to sustain that standard through the Champions Trophy, the tour of Bangladesh, and the limited-overs trip to India, finding himself out of the side as a result. Nevertheless, he had made peace in Victoria and was rewarded by a top-four batting commission he used to great effect in early-season Shield fixtures.

In this, Maxwell made for an intriguing contrast with another player of considerable Twenty20 flash - Chris Lynn. Where Lynn has made no secret of abandoning longer-form cricket in favour of T20, despite still being seen as a key part of Australia's ODI regeneration, Maxwell has remained very much committed to playing all forms with their competing priorities of technical, mental and scheduling natures. The keenness of the selectors to use Lynn, irrespective of numerous physical ailments and strictly limited appearances for his state, has underlined that there has been more than performance to the decisions around Maxwell.

Necessity, of course, brings changes in attitude, and this summer it has been the Australian team's turn to adapt. Horrid Australian batting displays in the ODI series against England meant that Maxwell ended the series as part of the set-up where he had begun it on the outer - there was even a detente-ish coffee with Smith in Melbourne - even after he had returned the favours of Lehmann and others by publicly critiquing the way the Australians were handling the middle overs "chill" time with the bat. Smith's "train smarter" suggestion has been clarified to Maxwell's satisfaction.

"The thing with those comments, he was talking about one-day cricket, and they were probably justified," Maxwell said. "I think as a No. 6 it's an awkward thing to prepare for because you go in with about 15 or 16 different scenarios. If your team's 4 for 50 you've got to make sure you're knuckling down and batting a long period of time. If you're 4 for 250 with five overs left you've got to go from ball one. That was more what he was talking about. We had a good conversation about that. He wasn't talking about my Sheffield Shield preparation, or my BBL preparation, he was talking about my ODI preparation, and I've only had one ODI since then!"

Where Chris Lynn has made no secret of abandoning longer-form cricket in favour of T20, Maxwell has remained very much committed to playing all forms with their competing priorities of technical, mental and scheduling natures. The keenness of the selectors to use Lynn, irrespective of numerous physical ailments and limited appearances for his state, has underlined that there has been more than performance to the decisions around Maxwell.

In the T20 series that has followed, where Australia have been led by Warner (with whom Maxwell happens to share a manager) rather than Smith and coached by Ricky Ponting in addition to Lehmann, a more effectively functioning unit has seen Maxwell performing at the sort of standard the team has long been looking for. Any previous gap between the hierarchy and the player appears to have closed to a far more manageable distance - both seem to agree on what they want out of each other. The presence of Ponting, as of the recent IPL auction Maxwell's coach for Delhi Daredevils, is significant.

"We've been doing a little bit of work off the field, even just with my preparation which has been pretty consistent over the last couple of games, and having little chats to him about the game," Maxwell said. "I've made it pretty public he's one of my childhood idols and to have him in my corner and backing me is awesome."

For Australia's T20 selector Mark Waugh, this is a far more acceptable state of affairs as he seeks to aid the team in climbing up the ICC rankings. "No matter what sport you play or office you're in, everyone's got different personalities," Waugh told Sky Sports Radio. "It's all about performance, that's all I'm worried about as a selector, performance on the field, and if you're performing on the field you'll fit in around your teammates.

"No-one's perfect, we've all got different ways of approaching our games and off the field everyone's different as well, that's just part of the fabric of a team game, you've got to mould in and work together. Once you get out on that field, performance is all I'm worried about."

Maxwell, too, has shown a measure of humility about his earlier missteps, telling SEN Radio last month that he had been "naive" in earlier years. "I probably did waste my talent early on. I was probably a bit naive about what I could do and how successful I could be playing for Australia," he said. "I know it probably frustrated a lot of people and I know it frustrated myself and my family. To be able to start putting some of that talent, which is probably one of the worst words, and potential, which is one of the other worst words, together into some runs this summer, [it's been] probably 12-18 months of hard work."

After his match-winning century to guide the Australians home in Hobart on Wednesday night, Maxwell was eager to state he was more satisfied by starting when it was difficult - notably playing the swinging ball more effectively than Lynn - than finishing with three figures. "The way I worked after the start - 2 for 4 in the first over while the ball was swinging around a bit - to get through that was probably something people had doubted in my ability," Maxwell said. "Being able to get through tough periods of bowling and they had the ball moving around.

"To get through those first three or four overs where the ball was zipping around ... I was able to hit a couple in the middle and once you do that you can get on a bit of a roll. Unfortunately as soon I got onto a bit of a roll, we'd lose a wicket and I'd have to start again. It was a bit of a stuttered innings in that regard but it was good to be able to get through and be not out at the end.

"The positive thing for me with this summer is that when I've come back into the Australian team, I've been in good form leading into it. The pleasing thing for me this summer, it's a been lot more consistent. I've been able to consistently get involved in the game and be influential in certain parts. That's probably the biggest change from this summer/last summer where there were mixed results that didn't warrant selections back into the side."

Best of all for Maxwell, the morning after was marked by praise rather than criticism, from both a teammate and a selector. Quoth Marcus Stoinis: "He is one of those players whose individual performance can win or change the whole game. I feel like he is getting some consistency and he is in a really good spot, so I'm expecting some big things from him."

Waugh, too, offered generous words, and as importantly stated that Australia saw Maxwell as a key part of their plans, not merely a bit-part player to be shuffled around depending on the whims of others. "As selectors we've been at Maxy about winning us games and that's exactly what he did last night," he said, "so from his point of view a great innings under pressure, he got wickets as well, so that's the standard that he's set himself and he's quite capable of doing that on a regular basis, so moving forward that's what we're hoping for from Maxy."

Nonetheless, it all could have been different had Jason Roy been judged by the third umpire to have taken a clean catch at long-off when Maxwell and Australia were still 53 runs short of the target - something he was apt to make note of. "Sometimes you need a bit of luck," Maxwell said, "and fortunately it was all on my side last night." After all the aforementioned opprobrium from the national team for which he plays, Maxwell was perhaps due this measure of good fortune.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig