There is a game currently taking place throughout the world of cricket - not on the playing side of things but on the accounting side. Let's call it the numbers game.
Associate and Affiliate bodies throughout the globe are striving to increase 'participation' levels, with the added incentive that links it to the levels of funding being distributed to governing bodies.
It all sounds very noble in priniciple, but the reality is somewhat markedly different.
Countries are being encouraged to be creative with these figures and you will all have seen the pronouncements by governing bodies exclaiming massive growth of the games in their respective hinterlands - "Numbers playing the game has more than doubled in the past five years!" - "52,000 now involved in cricket as compared with 27,000 just three years ago" etc.
Cricketers at grass roots in these countries however paint a very different picture, completely at odds with the supposedly exponential growth.
Their story is one of struggle to field teams, clubs in funding crisis, and a real struggle to enourage participation from teenagers. Clubs folding or team numbers being drastically reduced seems to be the real story - so why the disparity?
As always with statistics, you need to delve deeper to find out the truth. While the countries aren't exactly lying, they are at best 'being economical with the truth.'
There are development teams going into primary and secondary schools, playing Kwik cricket for typically an hour or two, and hey presto another 200-300 children are added to the participation figure tally sheet sent to the ICC Region.
Never mind that few if any of these kids actually play the game again, or indeed join forces with a local club.
There are exceptions, with some excellent development programmes bearing considerable fruit - alas, these are the exception rather than the rule.
Indeed there is disturbing anecdotal evidence that one ICC Region member, who submitted genuine participation numbers - people who they felt would continue playing beyond the one-off school introductory programme - was threatened with a funding cut by the region unless the figures were upwardly revised!
This is all of course being driven and actively encouraged from Dubai where the ICC mantra has switched from proclamations about the number of countries playing 'our wonderful sport' to headline figures about the number of participants actually playing the game.
Disturbingly, behind the scenes there is a 'country cull' taking place across all the regions, where up to 50% of member countries are being thrown out of the competitive environment, with no access to ICC competitions.
Their fears about cricket withering on the vine aren't being addressed, as ICC Regions switch from an emphasis on playing cricket to 'playground cricket.' That can't be good for the future of the sport we love and cherish - alas while the lunatics may not have taken over the asylum, bean counting accountants with scant knowledge of the game have.
There has been little publicity about the savage country cull, but in ICC Europe alone, no fewer than 13 member countries have been excommunicated to 'competition purgatory' and now face an uphill struggle to survive, existing in this competitive vacuum.
The countries affected in ICC Europe are Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg, Malta, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, and Turkey.
There's no doubt that this expulsion will be replicated across the other ICC Regions - with the possible exception of Asia - who in my view quite rightly ignore the edicts from the Ivory Towers in Dubai.
It is of course easier for the Asian Region to do this given their financial strength. The other regions aren't perhaps so fortunate struggling to survive on crumbs thrown down from the masters' table.
I do hope cricket thrives and becomes a truly global sport based on genuine participation figures rather than the 'smoke and mirrors' figures currently being trumpeted.
There is always talk about 'The Spirit of Cricket' - let us extend this noble concept to the participation figures.