Jos Buttler
Jos Buttler embarks upon his very first IPL season with the reigning champion Mumbai IndiansAFP

Following on quickly from a truly thrilling ICC World Twenty20 2016 tournament that ended with a memorable West Indies victory over England in Kolkata, the ninth edition of the glamorous Indian Premier League (IPL) officially gets under way on Saturday 9 April as the defending champions Mumbai Indians take on newcomers the Rising Pune Supergiants at the Wankhede Stadium.

The auction for this year's competition was held in February, with veteran all-rounder Shane Watson fetching the highest price of over £950,000 as he joins the Royal Challengers Bangalore. The 34-year-old's first eight seasons in the IPL came as part of the Rajasthan Royals, but the 2008 winners have been suspended for two years alongside the Chennai Super Kings following a corruption scandal. The temporary introduction of new franchises in the Supergiants and the Gujarat Lions has kept the league's quota fixed at eight teams.

So who are the four English players involved this time around? IBTimes UK takes a look below....

Kevin Pietersen - Rising Pune Supergiants

With no chance of making a return to international competition despite changes at the ECB and the almost weekly pleas of celebrity pal Piers Morgan, Pietersen, axed after the Ashes whitewash of 2013-14, is very much a T20 gun for hire these days with appearances in the Caribbean Premier League, Australia's Big Bash, the South African Ram Slam challenge and the Pakistan Super League.

The divisive former Surrey batsman has been in excellent nick of late too, notching 724 runs at an average of 55.69 during recent stints for the Sunfoil Dolphins and the Melbourne Stars. He was part of the Quetta Gladiators side that lost in the final of the inaugural PSL courtesy of a six-wicket defeat to Islamabad United in February and now returns to the IPL for the first time since 2014 after agreeing a contract release with the Sunrisers Hyderabad last year as part of a short-lived attempt to reignite his county and England careers.

Kevin Pietersen
Kevin Pietersen in action for the Quetta Gladiators of the Pakistan Super LeagueAFP

With a wealth of experience in India from four previous seasons with Bangalore, the Deccan Chargers and the Delhi Daredevils, Pietersen's fifth campaign will come in Pune with the Supergiants. He commanded £355,000 at auction and joins a strong team at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium coached by former New Zealand stalwart Stephen Fleming and skippered by India captain MS Dhoni. Their hugely experienced batting line-up also includes the likes of Steve Smith and Faf du Plessis, while spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and right-arm quick Ishant Sharma lead the bowling attack.

Jos Buttler - Mumbai Indians

Lancashire powerhouse Buttler actually proved a bigger draw than Pietersen at his first IPL auction, snapped up by Mumbai after losing his Test place to Jonny Bairstow. Kolkata were also interested in the talents of a man who bludgeoned his country's fastest ever ODI century against Pakistan in November 2015, but Ricky Ponting's side finally got their way with a winning bid of approximately £385,000.

Buttler further impressed with 105 and a blistering 48* against South Africa in February, before hitting 32* and 54 during T20 matches on that same tour. He proved one of Trevor Bayliss' key performers during England's recent eventful run to the T20 World Cup final, deservedly winning a place in the ICC's team of the tournament having smashed 191 runs in six matches. His three huge sixes from the final four deliveries sealed a seven-wicket win over New Zealand in the semis.

Speaking in February, Ponting declared himself very pleased with the addition of Buttler as both a back-up overseas batsman and wicket-keeper, while revealing that captain Rohit Sharma was also eager to have him on board. Surely that deputy tag will soon be a thing of the past.

Eoin Morgan - Sunrisers Hyderabad

Eoin Morgan
Eoin Morgan captained England to the T20 World Cup final but his personal form has been woefulGetty

Buttler flourished during the latest WT20 tournament, but Morgan's struggles with the bat showed no signs of easing. England's limited-overs skipper scored just 66 runs in six innings, falling for a first-ball duck against both Afghanistan and New Zealand. Such consistently poor performances have raised questions over his position, but head coach Bayliss recently handed him a vote of confidence and claimed there was "no reason" why he could not continue to lead through to the 2019 50-over World Cup on home soil.

A positive showing in his fifth IPL spell would come as a great relief, although how much he will play remains to be seen. The Sunrisers are not short of top and middle order options in David Warner, Shikhar Dhawan, Kane Williamson and Moises Henriques and new acquisition Yuvraj Singh should also be an automatic fixture once he returns from an ankle injury.

Sam Billings – Delhi Daredevils

Kent wicketkeeper Billings embarks upon his maiden IPL journey after featuring for Islamabad United in the PSL. Initially unsold at auction, he was eventually claimed by the Daredevils at a base price of £30,000 during a second round of bidding.

A handy middle/lower-order batsman, the 24-year-old made his England debut in a crushing 210-run ODI win over New Zealand in Birmingham last summer. His finest moment at international level to date came against Pakistan in November, when he deputised for Buttler and hit a 25-ball 53 – the joint-second fastest half-century in English T20 history – to inspire a 14-run triumph. Billings was included in the World Cup squad, but featured only as a substitute fielder and was criticised for a 13th-over drop of Dwayne Bravo on 11 with the West Indies at 69-3 in the final.

He joins a youthful Delhi team that have yet to enjoy much success at all in the IPL, but boast match-winners in fellow wickie Quinton de Kock and T20 hero Carlos Brathwaite as well as captain Zaheer Khan, JP Duminy, Chris Morris and Amit Mishra.